Property from a Distinguished European Collection

Atul Dodiya

Krishna Swallowing Forest Fire

Auction Closed

October 25, 02:50 PM GMT


7,000 - 9,000 GBP

Lot Details


Property from a Distinguished European Collection

Atul Dodiya

b. 1959

Krishna Swallowing Forest Fire

Oil, solder and museum magnets on steel and two steel stands

Titled 'KRISHNA SWALLOWING FOREST FIRE' at the centre and further signed, dated, titled and inscribed 'ATUL DODIYA / - "KRISHNA / SWOLLING [sic] FOREST FIRE" / - 2009 - 2010 / - 72" x 72" / - oil, autobody solder with / museum magnets on oxidize mild steel / Atul / '10'

183.2 x 183.2 cm. (72 ⅛ x 72 ⅛ in.)

Steel stands: 25.4 x 12.6 x 30.4 cm. (10 x 5 x 12 in.) each

Executed between 2009-2010

This lot is sold with no reserve.
Acquired from Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, India

R. Hoskote, Atul Dodiya, Prestel, Munich, London, New York, and Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, 2013, illustration p. 320

Born and raised in Ghatkopar, a middle-class suburb of Mumbai, Atul Dodiya studied at the Sir J. J. School of Art. He graduated in 1982 with much fanfare, as his works clearly demarcated where Indian art stood at a crossroads, moving beyond the style of Modernism prevalent in the day. In essence, Dodiya developed an ironic Post-modernist aesthetic, a progenitor of many contemporary art practices in India today. His early canvases were focused on realism and the subjects were usually autobiographical. In his post 90s works, Dodiya successfully juxtaposed imagery from politics and history, as well as high and low culture. He then started to move towards painted collages that were made up of a combination of literary, political and art-historical references. 

In this work, Dodiya makes reference to a story in the Bhagavata Purana, meant to be a demonstration of Lord Krishna's infinite and divine power. As the lore goes, while villagers were exhausted and sleeping from their recent confrontation with Kaliya, a water serpent who was poisoning their lake and had been subdued by Krishna, a forest fire breaks out. Engulfed in flames, the foliage starts to burn and the entire village is threatened. Desperate, they turn to Krishna who shows compassion and swallows the flames, taking them into his mouth. This story has been enumerated time and again in various ways in early miniature paintings and a myriad of religious texts. Here, Dodiya deftly contemporises this vignette and transforms it through his unique aesthetic. He explores the allegorical meaning of the human body by painting this parable in almost X-ray form, depicting Krishna’s figure in black and white and making the monochromatic composition contemporary and pared down.

Explaining why he repeatedly finds himself being pulled back to the body itself, Dodiya expresses that ‘The body is what carries all our emotions and deepest fears. Just as you need actors for a play, I need the very physical to talk about what’s going on inside.’ (Atul Dodiya quoted in R. Hoskote and N. Adajania, Anju Dodiya: The Dialogues Series, Popular Prakashan, Mumbai, 2011, p. 16)

The layers of complexity in this work are further heightened by a range of museum magnets adorning the edges of the flames. Well-known images from Western art history are depicted on these and we know that Dodiya collected these museum magnets himself. One of the most striking aspects of Dodiya’s practice is the far-reaching influences and interests he pursued throughout his career. He speaks of being touched for instance by the emotional naturalism present in European Renaissance masterpieces, the aura of solitude in Edward Hopper and David Hockney’s paintings, or the contemporary viscerality present in the work of Marina Abramovic. Dodiya does not believe in categorizations of art and hence the magnets in the current lot call to this position, prompting viewers to consider the meaning of constructed histories.