A self-taught artist dedicated to multiple professions, Gieve Patel has imaged a sensitive and acute awareness of the human condition throughout a 40-year painting practice. Sourcing inspiration from the quietude of nature and the pulse of the city, his work articulates a mature, restrained balance between figuration rooted in realistic naturalism and the freedom of painterly abstraction. Along with three books of verse and three plays, Patel has written extensively about contemporary Indian art and, until his recent retirement, was also a practicing physician.
Patel published his first book of poems and held his earliest solo exhibition in Bombay in 1966, which was followed by exhibitions at Kunika Chemould, Delhi in 1972 and Gallery Chemould, Bombay, in 1975. In the 1970s and 80s, he refined an ability to describe the universal experience of isolation in eloquent representations of the urban industrial landscape and common people, sites, and even animals in Bombay. During this period, Patel's artistic practice dovetailed with initiatives of artists based in Baroda and Bombay who responded to contemporary politics and everyday situations with an emphasis on narrative figuration.
While continuing to build on these themes, Patel began a distinct trope of representing violent deaths in the 1980s. In works like Crushed Head (1984) and Battered Man in Landscape (1993), the artist rendered victimized heads and torsos detached from specific aggressors and locational contexts. Like the resilient figures living in his urban-scapes, Patel wounded his victims with empathetic sensitivity and characteristic attention to the contoured shadows and colors at heart of the human form.
In the 1990s, Patel embarked on a long-term series of visual translations drawn from the wells of his ancestral Gujarat. Exhibiting the first of these works in the exhibition Looking into a Well at Gallery Chemould in 1996, Patel's paintings of this subject privilege an expressive, self-conscious recording of the experience of perception. Eliminating the encounter of one's own face that would reflect back from the surface of the water, and transforming the horizontal well into a vertically-hung canvas, the conceptual address of these works ties closely to the artist's persistent attention to the position of the human figure.
Born 1940 in Mumbai
1964 Graduated as a Doctor of Medicine from Grant Medical College, Mumbai
Lives in Mumbai
Gieve Patel's recent exhibition of paintings, 'Footboard Rider' at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai (2017), carries forward his lifelong preoccupations with the marginal figure, the intimations of the transcendental conveyed by the experience of looking at clouds or into wells, and the conditions of extremity and vulnerability attendant on the human condition. In this talk, the artist engages in conversation with poet and cultural theorist, Ranjit Hoskote, who has known Patel and his work for three decades. At the centre of the conversation lies the closely related themes of intimacy and alienation, self-understanding and self-unknowing that recur in Patel's work in the visual arts, poetry and theatre.
‘Footboard Rider’, Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai
'DWELLING', 10th Anniversary Show, curated by Ranjit Hoskote, Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai