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Strong roots of Indian Global Artist

While their art works are almost always present at every auction, it is rare to see Tyeb Mehta, S H Raza and Laxman Shreshtha in the news in the span of a week. One can’t help but marvel at the fortitude of these veterans who can easily afford to rest on their laurels given that they have already achieved so much in life. We saw the reclusive Mehta step up to the dais on February 5 to receive the Roopdhar Lifetime Achievement Award bestowed by The Bombay Art Society at Jehangir Art Gallery. The 81-year-old Mehta is not a frequenter of art openings and parties since his ill health and reclusive nature tend to keep him at his Andheri studio-flat. However the veteran spends most of his time being read to by loving wife Sakina, and despite his failing sight, he continues to paint slow and steady on a few select canvases of Kali and Falling Figures. Shireen Gandhy, who has had a long association with Mehta first as a youngster when her father Kekoo befriended the artist and later as an adult, is a great admirer of the maestro. “Tyeb, with all his encumbrances, has actually changed his style to accommodate his weakening eyesight. He has scaled up his work and it takes tremendous courage to continue like that,” she says. For his part, the artist offers a modest, “I am very happy to receive this award,” refraining from grand speeches.

Similarly, Raza was lost for words when confronted with a retrospective of 30 years of his work at the Institute of Contemporary Indian Art. The 85-year-old painter looked around in awe and then speared his hands with a beatific smile. “It is not me who has painted these canvases but the one above, the great master who works through me. I am just his tool,” says the Paris-based painter who flew in for his own opening as well as the openings of younger painters. Surrounded by a bevy of women of different age groups, one of his lady companions turned out to an important and influential person, Sabrina Guiglionda, the president of the Autour du Chateau de Gorbio, Raza’s village in southern France. Plans are afoot to lay the foundation for an Indo-French cultural centre in memory of Raza’s late wife Mongillat and Guiglionda is Raza’s right arm in this venture. Even at 85, Raza is a busy man. Besides his solo and works that feature in the upcoming Christie’s auction, Raza has plans for a three-month-long exhibition this July in France. Laxman Shreshtha belongs to a younger generation but turning 70 did have his doctor saying, “You need to slow down”. Nevertheless he made his come back with an 8x17 feet commissioned triptych canvas unveiled by Ratan Tata at The Grand Hyatt. This was followed by a tie-up with jewellery maker Poonam Soni. Now look out for his solo show slotted to open at Pundole Art Gallery this March. “I have been working on the Black & White series for almost two years now. The idea was to do works on paper watercolours, charcoal and mixed media. Then I went to Bali about seven weeks ago and was inspired to measure out 8x11 canvas at Pundole. I worked secretly for five days,” says Shreshtha. “On the sixth day I dragged Sunita to my studio to show her my work. She was speechless. I was inspired to do two more canvases.”



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