VaSudeo Gaitonde: Least among equals | art and culture | Hindustan Times
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VaSudeo Gaitonde: Least among equals

art and culture Updated: Jan 28, 2011 22:16 IST
Amitava Sanyal
Amitava Sanyal
Hindustan Times
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Vasudeo Gaitonde (1924-2001) was a man of few excesses. “He probably painted only 300-odd canvases in his whole life,” says Dinesh Vazirani, co-founder of Saffronart who has put together 17 of the master abstractionist’s paper and canvas works — most of them borrowed from private collectors in Delhi — for the opening exhibition of his gallery’s Delhi chapter.

Ram Kumar, the 86-year-old abstractionist who befriended Gaitonde in the 1950s in Bombay, says, “He used to say: ‘I’ve said what I had to say. If I paint any more, I’ll be repeating myself’.” Such unsparing rigour earned Gaitonde the admiration of peers and patrons.

It also meant less works for sale. Ram Kumar remembers him mocking, “If I want money I’ll do a red painting — that’ll sell for more.” Gaitonde remained immersed in his books on Jain philosophy or the poetry of Saint-John Perse.

The terseness didn’t help him win friends when ‘life’s logistics’ made him shift from his old Bombay house to a barsati in Nizamuddin. “Once, he was going for a walk in Connaught Place and (artist) Akbar Padamsee asked whether he could join him. Gaitonde said, ‘Yes, but only if you keep your mouth shut’,” says Ram Kumar. The not-so-warm, reluctant Delhiite passed away in Gurgaon a decade ago.

Every other year Gaitonde would go over to Bombay to watch it rain in his beloved city and leave his latest works with Pundole, the gallery that organised the master’s last big show. That was more than 15 years ago, in Mumbai. Now it’s the turn of his second, colder home.

@ Saffronart Gallery, Basement, Oberoi Hotel on Zakir Hussain Marg, till February 4. Call 24304458

No laughing matter

Sarcasm is to the Indian artist what the caramel is to a Cadbury’s 5-Star. But unlike the sweet core of the bar, the sarcasm leaves a bitter aftertaste — it creates a distance between the artist and the viewer. So when you hear of a show wrapped in the title, ‘Humour, wit and satire’, you warm up to it expecting some fine milk chocolate.

And what do you get? If you’ll excuse our metaphor, you get a lot more sarcasm — only, this once it’s wrapped in some nice bitter cocoa. You find NS Harsha’s fox howling for a ‘24-carrot nation’, 72 of Atul Dodiya’s peers caricatured, and Ved Gupta’s midgets trying to stifle a laughing fit.

Tunty Chauhan, curator of the show and owner of Gallery Threshold, one of the first ‘white cubes’ in Lado Sarai, agrees there’s quite some sarcasm sloshing about. “But it all comes under ‘humour’, doesn’t it?” she asks. Should we get back to the chocolates?

‘Humour, Wit & Satire’ @ Gallery Threshold, F213A Lado Sarai, till February 19. Call 41829181.