It was in 1965 that Tyeb Mehta painted the first of his Falling Figures series. The work won him a Gold medal in India's first Triennale following which he was awarded the Rockefeller Foundation grant in 1968 to work and study in the United States for a year. Following his visit to New York his canvases undergo a reorganization both in terms of composition and application of color. Large flat planes of color dominate the work, accompanied by figures executed with a sparseness of line that becomes a hallmark of his later works. Mehta returned to his Falling Figure series in the late 1980s upon his return from Santiniketan where he was an artist-in-residence.
Mehta, like many artists of his generation, had been witness to the horrific events that took place in India during and after Partition and his memories of this period clearly had an immense impact on him and the vocabulary of his art. The artist states, 'There were elements of violence in my childhood...One incident left a deep impression on me. At the time of Partition I was living in Mohemmadali Road which was virtually a Muslim ghetto. I remember a young man being slaughtered in the street below my window. The crowd beat him to death, smashed his head with stones. I was sick with fever for days afterwards and the image still haunts me today. That violence gave me the clue about the emotion I want to paint. That violence has stuck in my mind.' (Ranjit Hoskote, Tyeb Mehta: Ideas Images Exchanges, 2005).
Figures are constants in his work: the falling human figure, the falling bird, the trussed bull, the buffalo demon of Hindu myth and the goddess Kali, all of them are linked by the distortion of the form through violent activity. The figure is either the victim of violence or has the pent up primal potential for violent activity. In the current work the rickshaw symbolizes the polarities of human experience present in modern India. 'The rickshaw is not a simple means of transport but a sign of bondage and the slave... is naked Man.' (N. Ezekiel, Tyeb Mehta, Kunika-Chemould Art Center Exhibition Catalogue, March 1970).
Dalmia states, 'Tyeb Mehta...brings about an almost violent rhythm in his human forms. A recurring motif in his work has been the falling figure, which seems to be hurtling downwards and yet is suspended, limbs spreading like a projectile and an expression of frozen horror on the face. The figure etched with minimal lines, manifests an intense pain.' (Yashodhara Dalmia, The Making of Modern Indian Art: The Progressives, 2001, p. 218).
In the current works, as with his diagonal series of the 1970s, Tyeb dissects his composition from the lower left corner to the upper right. The diagonal form becomes conceptually integrated as a pole of the rickshaw, the very symbol of his bondage. Yet despite the distortion of limbs and the inherent violence of his imagery, the potency of Tyeb's work lies in the balance of harmonious tones and line within these vibrant minimalist compositions. The central figure is elevated to an iconic realm where the violence appears serene and the anguish of the figure demands our pathos.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale