No artist in India is better prepared to stare death in the face than Gieve Patel. Having admitted to a "slightly sick concern with the body," at least in his poetry, a significant portion of his painterly output has also focused on physical pain, suffering, and degradation. These preoccupations are typically associated with the artist/writer's parallel life as a doctor. Certainly, Patel's 'Meditations on Old Age' appear to contemplate the approach of death from a clinical distance, through a dispassionate analysis of the slackened skin of bloated faces. But the series also shows evidence of a finely tuned painterliness, their surfaces mottled with a carefully modulated series of textures. Old age is surely the main subject tackled by these works, but the series of paintings also offer us an opportunity to contemplate mastery.
The four paintings, done in oils, are of moderate size. They are made in a relatively unusual palette that mixes saturated hues of green, red, yellow, or blue with almost unbearably fleshy yellows and pinks. Though each painting is a study of a face, most of the features blend together--the nose, mouth, cheekbones, and eyes barely discernable in textured mass of surface ornament. In each, one element of the face is highlighted, whether a bluntly recognizable part in the hair or the fleetingly visible veins on the eyelid. Mastery is demonstrated here not through virtuosity or monumentality, but rather through the calm, controlled, and deliberately visible decisions made by the painter. The enduring power and continued potential of painting is under consideration here.
Patel poses the question of painting's future after a decades long career in which he has consistently found in the medium the ethical and political tools with which to confront the human experience. This has come in through the parallel pursuit of three main themes: the contemplation of the suffering body, the everyday life of his home city of Bombay/Mumbai, and the relationship between human beings and nature. A noted poet, playwright, and art critic as well as a painter, Gieve Patel has worked in dialogue with overlapping communities of the arts, centered in Bombay, since the late-1960s. It is fitting that the first of the Meditations was exhibited at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke in the exhibition 'Touched by Bhupen' (2013-14), which explored how Khakhar's work offered a site ofmeeting for artists. Karin Zitzewitz, 2015
Born 1940 in Mumbai
1964 Graduated as a Doctor of Medicine from Grant Medical College,Mumbai
Self Taught Artist
Lives in Mumbai
‘Footboard Rider’, Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke
'DWELLING', 10th Anniversary Show, curated by Ranjit Hoskote, Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai
C. R. Parekh Writer in Residence, Nirman Foundation Grant University of Pennsylvania