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Jyoti Bhatt

March 11, 2018 – April 6, 2018

A remarkable and eclectic artist, Jyoti Bhatt’s collections of prints, photographs and paintings, at first glance strikes the eye as vibrant and energetic. His judicious utilisation of Indian mythology while combining it with pop art and early cubist styles, has established him as one of the pioneers of the Baroda group of artists and art historians. Emphasising on viewing the subjects of his work from multiple perspectives and giving it a modernist touch, which has previously not been prominent in India, the collocation in his works has had a resonating influence on modern Indian art and inspired numerous artists.

Baroda is Jyoti Bhatt’s alma mater, and the city where most of his works have been created. This is the first time however, that such a large collection of his works have been displayed here. Along with his paintings and prints, this particular exhibition of the esteemed artist also displays inkjet prints of past works that may have been lost or even destroyed, thus inciting a theme of reincarnation.


The caste system is a concept that is uniquely Indian. This social perception has been observed inflexibly to this day by many Indians. The caste system mandates that there is a hierarchy to caste and those born to a particular caste automatically fall within it.

Similar to the caste system there is a parallel hierarchical classification followed in the art world in India. Thus, a photograph is considered inferior to a ‘graphic print’. And, the print in turn is given a lower place than a painting. This is generally accepted by all – art dealers, galleries, the public, as well as private art collectors. As if this is not erroneous enough there are sub-castes too!! There are collectors for whom “An investment in art is as good as investing in gold and real estate”. A large percentage of such art collectors have their preference for oils over paintings made with acrylic, water color or crayons. Sometimes prints are acquired – mostly due to reasons such as unavailability or un-affordability of the desired paintings of certain artists. If and when a print is acquired, an etching is given the first choice over the other three – equally potential printmaking methods. In spite of being the most popular and comprehensible visual form, photographic images are rarely considered a worthy ‘art forms’. There are indeed very few art galleries and museums that show photographs as ‘Works of Art’. Ironically, they show works of ‘Post Modern Super Photo Realist’ painters! Very few art dealers have any interest in visual images that are created digitally and printed because it is difficult for them to find buyers.

Longevity of an art work is certainly an important criteria for acquiring art but not many collectors can make out the qualitative difference between the pigments and dyes used for manufacturing various kinds of paints and inks that artists use.

Due to the advent of digital technology ‘Silver Gelatin’ photographs are now becoming rare. So such prints are highly valued by their collectors. But these prints are quite prone to oxidize and turn yellow unless they were processed with special care. Not many photographers of earlier years knew about this or had actually used the correct types of paper and chemical methods while making the prints. But, on other hand the same photographs reprinted with pigment based inkjet process on archival quality paper (specially made for this from 100% cotton fibers) lasts much longer without any visual distortions. Such inkjet prints of photographs should be considered their incarnations.

We as Indians are familiar with the concept of incarnation or ‘Avataara’. As per ‘Jataka’ stories Buddha had gone through several different incarnations before he finally emerged in the form of a human being. Vishnu is believed to have had ten ‘Avataars’ of which, Rama and Krishna (and, for some Buddha also) are the incarnations of Vishnu. These three later ‘Avataaras’ are more popular than the other seven.

Because of the advancement of technology it has now become possible for us to revive, renovate and reproduce old works of arts that are not in good condition. I have tried to revive some of my old works that were created with material which was affordable and easily available to me during the early years of my career. Neither the paints nor the canvas or papers I had used then were of archival quality. I have also tried to rejuvenate my earlier works by giving them a kind of ‘face-lift’. So, the present works are in a way the new ‘Avataaras’ of my old works.

There is a question that often bothers the art collectors – Can a reproduction of a work of art also be considered as a work of art? There are questions such as this that have troubled me also. How and why should works of art be exclusive assets of a few people? What about those who appreciate art but can’t afford to pay high prices? What is more important in a two dimensional work of art, its physical properties or the expression that is visible in the form of an image? Can’t a high quality reproduction of such work provide its viewers very similar joy? Shouldn’t someone who loves art but does not have money, also have the opportunity of acquiring ‘Art’ in the form of a reproduction at a much lower price?

I have been living in Vadodara since 1950. Most of my works have been created here. But, I could avail of only two opportunities of holding solo shows of my photographs and one for showing my prints in this city. Many of my works were never shown in Vadodara. They are now in several public and private collections and scattered at different locations. So, I have also included here – in the form of inkjet prints – some such paintings which were not shown in Vadodara and even some that are destroyed or lost.

– Jyoti Bhatt