Ali Akbar Mehta’s works may not look anything like late grandfather, Tyeb Mehta’s, but their magnanimity and sheer emotional appeal are at par with those created by the veteran artist.
With Ballad Of The War That Never Was And Other Bastardised Myths, Ali is presenting his debut solo show in the city, starting today. On display are a range of vivid and erudite canvases, digital paintings, photographic digital paintings, drawings, poems as well as a video installation, for which he has composed his own music. Says Ali, “The works have been compiled over five years. I’m looking at humans as heroes of their own stories, how the hero is striving towards the fulfilment of his destiny, but there are forces trying to keep him away.”
The artist claims that graphic novels, anime and manga characters inspire him; and even mythology, not in the traditional sense, but in terms of its larger than life structures and narratives. “I’m corned with the idea of a violent war, and looking at war as a myth. By bastardised myths, I’m trying to give old world myths a contemporary spin and see whether they are still significant, and whether cultures clash and give rise to hybrid myths,” explains Ali.
Besides paintings, Ali is also displaying a series of poems he’s penned himself. “I never felt I could write more than this. These are voices of a parallel idea, running along with the works. Some reflect the works, others don’t. Some came before the works, some came after,” he says.
And while his canvas paintings look starkly different from the series of digitally painted prints, Ali is confident the distinction won’t throw the viewer off, “To my mind, these works are very intricately connected. The media is an antithesis, just like the characters the hero and the harlequin. So it goes well with the characterisation. They both seem like outsiders in each other’s worlds, which comes across very well when they are juxtaposed.” Ask Ali whether his grandfather’s career has smoothed his way into the field or worked against him by raising expectations, he says, “I know there will be expectations, and it definitely wouldn’t make my life easier, but I look forward to it all the same.”