Vasudeo S. Gaitonde was not a prolific painter, completing only five or six deeply considered canvases a year. Although for him the physical act of painting his canvases was meticulous and precise, it was the formulation of the concept, the incubation and propagation of the painting as an idea in his own consciousness that absorbed his attention and time. A recluse, Gaitonde retired from any distractions he deemed superfluous to the contemplative rigors required for the life of an artist.
"'Gai' [Gaitonde] knows what he wants and works with determination to achieve it. His paintings reflect this confidence in that their structure and coloration look just right [...] The mark of a true artist is control, the ability to state concisely that which he wishes, but in doing so, not lose the spark of life which brought about the work's creation. Gai's works have that spark as well as the control, but they also live a life of their own which reaches out and involves the spectator." (R. Craven Jr., 'A Short Report on Contemporary Painting in India', Art Journal, Vol. 24, No. 3, 1965, p. 229)
This radiant painting from 1995 maintains the delicate balance of light, texture, colour, and space, which the artist perfected over the course of his career, imbuing his work with a unique lyricism and luminosity, the 'spark' that Craven astutely pointed out three decades earlier. With its virtually imperceptible gradations of gold and ochre pigments with blue highlights, and its enigmatic hieroglyphic forms that seem to spontaneously emerge from and disappear under the glimmering surface, this canvas provokes new discoveries with each viewing. Writing about the experience of viewing Gaitonde's paintings, Dnyaneshwar Nadkarni states, "there is a sense of atmosphere, there is an approximation of music and, what is most important, there is a throbbing mystery about the very process of viewing and responding as if one is sucked into some still centre of hitherto unknown experience." (D. Nadkarni, Gaitonde, New Delhi, 1983, unpaginated)
Pria Karunakar describes this distinctive quality of the artist's work as 'sensuous'. "Each [painting] is unified by a single colour. The colour glows; it becomes transparent; it clots. It is this play of pigment, as it is absorbed physically into the canvas that directs the eye. Texture is structure. How he achieves this texture is the secret of Gaitonde's style [...] The order is almost deliberately obscured by the distribution of near-random forms across the surface. These topographical or hieroglyphic forms themselves are made to dissolve into the field like enamel in an encaustic [...] The continual work of laying on pigment, dissolving it, stripping it off, and overlaying (like a process of nature) comes to a natural close as the pigmentation comes to a natural conclusion. The painter is at the controls, he decides when the painting has arrived at its capacity to articulate, yet he registers things intuitively [Gaitonde states]: 'Like music, I know when it is at an end'. So far his visual sensibility has been absorbed in the action of painting. Now it takes over and finalises. He takes his time about this. He lives with the painting; views it continually." (P. Karunakar, 'V.S. Gaitonde', Lalit Kala Contemporary 19-20, New Delhi, 1975, pp. 15-16)
This painting was one of the last completed in Gaitonde's small barsaati or terrace studio in Nizamuddin, before he moved to Gurgaon in 1996, and features prominently in the only film made on the artist, Art on Art, in 1995.
Oil on canvas
It's not that I have nothing to say through my paintings. I may not be making a statement. I don't want to. I am not wedded to any dogma or belief or narrow loyalty. I am first and foremost an individual. I cannot subscribe to any collective thinking and I will not acknowledge any thought that does not appeal to my reason. Emotions [are] intrinsically individual in their impact and revelation. And what I seek to portray, being true to myself, remains personal. [So] I can only hope for a certain understanding by others. That is the reason I don't caption my paintings and why a single colour dominates my compositions.
- V.S. Gaitonde, 1991
PROPERTY OF A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTOR
Signed three times in Hindi and dated '95' and further inscribed and dated 'V.S. GAITONDE 95' (on the reverse)
Vasudeo S. Gaitonde
Vasudeo S. Gaitonde , 20th Century, Paintings, oil, India, Modern, abstract
55¼ x 40 1/8 in. (140.3 x 101.9 cm.)
Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai
Acquired from the above by the present owner, circa late 1990s