Tyeb Mehta`s last work open to viewers

Last Updated: Jan 13, 2011, 12:53 PM IST

New Delhi: The last work of Indian contemporary master artist Tyeb Mehta that he painted just before his death in 2009 has been thrown open for viewing in a rare exposition of the artist`s unseen work.

The room-size diptych of a bull that the artist painted two years prior to his death is owned by a family of private collectors in Mumbai. It is not for sale.

Mehta, one of India`s most expensive artists, created auction history when his triptych "Celebration" was sold for Rs 1.5 crore (USD 317,500) at a Christie`s auction in 2002 in the highest ever hammer-price for an Indian painting at an international auction.

The sale set off a boom in the Indian art market.

Mehta, whose art made price histories at sales worldwide, worked in Mumbai, London, New York and Shantiniketan. Some of his other noted works included "Diagonal Series", a "Shantiniketan triptych" and the "goddess series with kali and images of Mashisasuramardini".

The showcase "Triumph of Vision" in the capital has brought to viewers rare spiritual compositions in large formats, which the artist experimented in the two decades since 1985 till his death.

The exposition is a curtain-raiser to a bigger retrospective panorama of the artist`s works.

"This is a very select exhibition of some of his works, which are very strong and have not been seen often. It is significant because this is the first time the diptych is being shown, which was with a family of private collectors in Mumbai," curator Yashodhara Dalmia told reporters.

Another work that is generating interest among viewers is a "strong delineation of kali (painted in the nineties) that was exhibited at the Tate Modern in 2001, but was never seen in India", Dalmia said at a media preview.

A powerful sculpture of a bull`s head brought out gradual change in Mehta`s style in the last two decades of his life, the curator said.

Mehta was influenced by Indian mythology in the mid-eighties. A trip to Shantiniketan changed his outlook to art.

"Two series of works on mythology came about after he made the Shantiniketan triptych in 1985," Dalmia said.

Interpretation of goddesses in the Hindu pantheon kept him occupied throughout the eighties and the nineties.

"The goddesses were portrayed in a rather secular manner minus the usual accoutrements that Indian icons have. They appeared as very powerful dark figures of a looming female deity who vanquished evil around her. He reinvented the dark deity as a symbol of power, energy and creativity," she further said.

According to Dalmia, in the last days of his life, he could reinvent mythology in a manner that was unrivalled.

"He could condense the degradation of the social environment with the economy of lines into a single form," she added. He was known for his transformational tendencies in art.

Born in 1925, he was a member of the Progressive Artists` Group formed in 1947 and worked with masters like Akbar Padamsee, Krishen Khanna, VS Gaitonde, Ram Kumar, MF Husain, and SH Raza. He was inspired by artists like Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee.

The exhibition presented by Vadehra Gallery will be open for general viewers Jan 15.

IANS