Give Peace Another Chance, a series of artworks by Guntur-bred and now Vadodara-based artist Adarsh Baji, attempts to make viewers pause and rediscover Gandhi, ahead of his 154th birth anniversary on October 2. Through large format charcoal, pen and ink, and oil on canvas artworks, the artist highlights the relevance of Gandhi and is confident that his ideology will continue to thrive. Presenting his first solo show in Hyderabad at Kalakriti Art Gallery, Adarsh says the series is a result of seven to eight years of work. “Gandhi has been increasingly criticised in the last few years. But I believe that he will triumph.”
A charcoal work titled Humbling the World metaphorically depicts statues of exalted personalities of the West bowing to Gandhi who takes it all in his stride with his characteristic smile. “The world remembers and respects Gandhi, while the situation has changed in India,” says Adarsh. In another acrylic painting he depicts the fall of Nathuram Godse and juxtaposes it with a floral tribute to a smiling Gandhi.
Give Peace a Chance explores Gandhi’s life and ideology in myriad media. Black and white charcoal and pen and ink drawings are placed alongside colourful acrylic and oil canvases. One painting depicts Gandhi as a global leader when there was no social media, and print media had limited reach. “It is amazing when you think how he reached every village in the country in those times,” says the artist. A 1940s television set in the painting has an image of a child, symbolic of the nascent media in Gandhi’s times, in the vicinity of a portrait of Gandhi who had already become a global icon. The artist also uses the three wise monkeys as an imagery to state that Gandhi’s ideology will continue to thrive. At the same time, he also draws our attention to the criticism faced by Gandhi through a sombre painting of him being crucified.
The subject apart, the artworks stand out for their technique. The fine charcoal works involve four to five layers of application to create a glossy texture. A pen and ink artwork, highlighting the power of Gandhi’s silence that dwarfed canons, is the result of intricate fine line detailing. The effort appears more special when we factor in Adarsh’s physical challenge. Relying on his crutches, he recalls how a side effect of a botched-up polio vaccination rendered him thus.
However, he does not consider his condition a struggle and says it is more of a challenge. “My parents were police officers and always encouraged me to do my best. I manage things on my own at my studio in Baroda. I do not think of my physical condition as my limitation.”
Adarsh believes that art can and should reflect the socio-politics of our times. “I do not approach art purely from a commercial intent,” he states. At the entrance of Kalakriti, a small portrait of Gandhi greets visitors. This is an old portrait that Adarsh had done while in school.
Growing up, he realised he was taking to art naturally. He moved to Hyderabad to pursue a bachelor’s degree in visual arts at JNTU (Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University) after studying B.Com at Hindu College, Guntur. He pursued masters in arts at the University of Hyderabad and moved to Vadodara to set up his studio. “Rekha and Prshant Lahoti of Kalakriti have been a huge support. Their Krishnakriti Foundation supported me with a five-year-scholarship,” says the artist who is also skilled in printmaking, sculpting and murals.
(Give Peace Another Chance will be on view at Kalakriti art gallery, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad, till October 18)