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Balkrishna Doshi at Bikaner House

‘Remnants of Memory’. A total of eleven works—including five mixed-media paintings on canvas, two metal sculptures, three drawings, plus a teakwood door—was on show at an epic unveiling at Bikaner House as part of a group show titled ‘Memory Keepers’, hosted by Vadehra Art Gallery in a show entitled On Site..

Putting the spotlight on the grand architect Balkrishna Doshi was his grand daughter Khushnu Panthaki Hoof who curated the show with aplomb and academic restraint.

It brought alive the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes: “ Wisdom is the abstract of the past, but beauty is the abstract of the future.”

Single door

A single door created as far back , a few paintings and two surreal installations unveil like a candle embodying life and death in a chapter of life’s leanings. One must begin with the single door, it makes for an intense reserve that instinctively makes one stay at a distance from imagining the glory of its being , in the void inhabited by mystery.In the intensely white light that transfigures the place and embodies the spirit of the image breathes a language that is so decidedly modernist. One recalls Doshi’s stint of working with Le Corbusier in Paris and Chandigarh before he began his practice at Ahmedabad.

Vadehra art gallery Delhi, Balkrishna Doshi studio

Belonging to the late Gunvant Mangaldas’s home in Ahmedabad that was demolished, curator and grand daughter Pathanki Hoof and her team made a dash to the house, and began documenting the interiors designed by Doshi. She pulled out this door, with its two curious curved slits for eyes to peep through, and restored it, framed it in plywood finished with micro concrete so it remains self-standing, removed from the context of a house, but as a piece of art that references a passage of time, of lives lived, of doors opened and shut. “To my grandfather, it remains a memory of his friend,” she said in an interview.

Created for a distanced and sophisticated precision, the rigour and minimalist simplicity strongly accentuate the presence of an economy of design steeped in history and memory.

Two installations

After wrapping the image of the door around one’s senses one goes back to the two metal sculptures titled Overlay of Dreams that are a derivative of Doshi’s earlier sketches titled ‘Architectural Dreams’. These sculptures were created to offer a three-dimensional experience. Curator Pathanki-Hoof has said that while drawing and painting, he would imagine himself walking through these layers and surfaces, discovering and reinterpreting his experiential past.

Vadehra art gallery Delhi, Balkrishna Doshi studio

Hoof took the drawings and cast them into 36-square-inch mild-steel sculptural installations so that the viewer can experience Doshi’s lines not as a flat surface but sensing depth of space , volume, as well as contrasts in thickness and thinness, as well as light and shadow. It’s a leap of medium and scale, and hence experience. At Bikaner House it is these two installations that talk to us about time and tenor.Replete with rhythms of the power of line it echoes the dalliance of the hand and mind in a radiating resonance that brings forward time past to time present.

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Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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