V S Gaitonde (1981) Photo: Taken from his bio on the Guggenheim Museum website
Abstract art is regarded by many as a bit of a con. Part of the reason they feel that way is because abstract art by its very nature defies definition. It is not representative of objects, both animate and inanimate, that we see around us and instantly recognize although I would argue that the world abounds in abstraction, both human and otherwise. It is just that we are accustomed to it.
As the Guggenheim Museum continues to showcase the works of the great Indian modernist Vasudeo Santu Gaitonde (1924-2001), I remain captivated by his genius for this form that he called a non-objective style. All great art has within it a quality of having materialized on its own even though it is always the artist’s vision. When you see Gaitonde’s works, you get that sense.
Most of us get to see the finished product and are not privy to the process that goes on behind it. Any work by any artist, even the most mediocre ones, involves some effort. When art is as great as Gaitonde’s and other masters’ it is hard to know how much effort went into it. It is possible that after early years such artists are on a version of visual autopilot which just directed their brush without any apparent effort on their part. I am just speculating.
Art is not about explanation but purely a visual experience. Whether or not one can discern a pattern or something identifiable is irrelevant to the real experience of any art. Gaitonde just makes you want to stand in front and savor it as do most great artists.
It is heartening that Gaitonde has been brought to New York in such an organized fashion by Sandhini Poddar, Adjunct Curator with Amara Antilla, Curatorial Assistant, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. I would have loved to see the exhibition firsthand but it is not so bad that I can see some of the images online.
V. S. Gaitonde, Untitled, 1995. Oil on canvas, 60 x 40 inches (152.4 x 101.6 cm). Pundole Family Collection X.2013.1082 © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York. Photo: Anil Rane
V. S. Gaitonde, Untitled, 1973. Oil on canvas, 70 1/8 x 39 3/4 inches (178 x 101 cm). National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi X.2013.1125 © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York. Photo: Anil Rane
I have said this before about a dear friend fellow journalist turned painter Prakash Bal Joshi and it bears repeating. Joshi, also an accomplished writer in Marathi, has emerged as a major new talent in recent years. In my book, Prakash’s abstracts and single line drawings are as compelling as Gaitonde’s. Check out just the following two among his many works.
‘Void of Substance’, Oil on canvas-26X36 in by Prakash Bal Joshi
‘Deconstruct’, Oil and acrylic on canvas—36X48 in by Prakash Bal Joshi
And finally, while reading about the Gaitonde retrospective at the Guggenheim, I began and finished the following of my own.
Gaitonde by Mayank Chhaya (Entirely digital)