Thursday, March 3, 2011

Dali takes Bollywood kitsch artist to surreal realm

The distance between Bollywood kitsch art and Spanish master Salvador Dali is a light year, but for Gurgaon-based pop artist Baba Anand, the progression from one to the other has been natural.

The artist has taken a complete break from his trademark Bollywood and tinsel film art to dabble in “Daliesque surrealist abstraction and solid art” in his biggest ever retrospective exhibition at the Religare Arts.I gallery in the capital.

The show, “The Major Arcana”, inspired by 22 famous compositions by the Spanish master, is a testimony that “Dali can still inspire creative reinterpretations in the parlance of Indian contemporary art”.

Baba, a native of Srinagar, came into limelight in 2001 with his Bollywood pop art show, “Kitsch Kitsch Hota Hai”.

“I harboured this dream to recreate Dali’s art in my own idiom when I read a book on him at 13. After nearly five decades, I have realised my dream,” the debonair artist told IANS in the capital.

The highlight of the exhibition is a series of 10 Daliesque doodles – “Lips”, “Moon”, “Sun”, “Rose”, “Heart”, “Baguette”, “Clock”, “Butterfly”, “Cyprus” and “Animal” – painted in acrylic on small square mirrors in a wall panel.

The icons are Dali’s patent motifs that were found in almost all his compositions. “You cannot call them Dali’s doodles, they are my doodles now,” Anand said.

Another composition, “Eye”, in mirror and coloured tinsel, one of Dali’s most enduring artistic symbols, rivets viewers with its poignance. A trickle of tears flows down the lone eye in the mirror and spreads into a pool of white tinsel beneath.

“Dali was very mystical. He had visions and possessed psychic qualities. The eye was special to him. I took his icon and turned it into a painting collage on a mirror,” Anand said.

Dali, born in 1904 in Barcelona, Spain, became one of the early pioneers of the surrealist and abstract movement with his painting, “The Persistence of Memory” – a futuristic cast of distorted watches in a surreal colourscape. Post-World War II, he became preoccupied with science and religion.

Anand’s gamut of medium and material has also been influenced by the Spanish master.

“I have used paint liberally, physical loom embroidery and 24 carat gold leafing for some of the larger art works, apart from the usual semi-precious embellishments of shells, stones and crystals. I have not played much with paint as a medium. The use of pigments and paint helps an artist improve his technique,” he said.

The compositions are a blend of abstract and figurative art.

“I am constantly changing,” said the artist, who spent eight years in Paris and New York before the show to hire craftsmen and crew, who hand-embroidered some of the compositions.

“However, I researched Dali on the internet,” Anand said.

The exhibit also features a tribute to Dali with three large-format visages of the artist in collage and tinsel-texture compositions, “The Fool,” “The Magpie” and “The High Priestess”.

Another that draws attention is a recast of a head of Dali’s muse Mae West and a “lip” settee in Barbie style installations. A composition in golden gauze and paper smeared with Baba Anand’s lip marks completes the sequence.

“I carried Dali’s favourite muse a step ahead,” the artist said with a laugh. But what adds a rather sombre note to the glitzy and opulent cache of work is the artist’s new “flirtation” with death in a series of six tarot-inspired paintings.

“The compositions have been inspired by tarot, change and Dali, who often thought of death in his art. This is the first time I am dealing with death in my work,” Anand said.

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