The Dancing Line: Revisiting Shiavax Chavda

_DSC0598A Retrospective of paintings & sketches of the Master

WHAT: ‘The Dancing Line – revisiting Shiavax Chavda’, a Retrospective of paintings & sketches of the master.

WHEN: Tuesday October 24th to Monday October 30th, 2017

WHERE: Jehangir Art Gallery, Kalaghoda, Mumbai

TIMINGS: 11am to 7pm

‘The Dancing Line – revisiting Shiavax Chavda’

For the first time in 22 years, the family of late artist Shiavax Chavda will be holding a dedicated retrospective of his works at the Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, from October 24-30, 2017. ‘The Dancing Line – revisiting Shiavax Chavda’, is an opportunity to view a treasure trove of paintings and sketches by the master.

This retrospective aims to showcase the versatility of the artist, who over four decades experimented in various artistic styles and created a body of work that is still revered and appreciated by art lovers and students alike.  Art lovers will also get a rare opportunity to purchase one of these masterpieces.

The exhibition comprises a variety of the artist’s works including his human studies, tempera work, fisherfolk, birds, serpents & animal series, Balinese masks, Indian musicians, classical Indian dancers, semi abstract & abstract art.

Considered one of the pioneers of Indian modern art, Chavda was felicitated as fellow of the Lalit Kala Academi in 1986 and awarded Artist of the year by Maharashtra State government in 1990. The artist who was part of the Bombay Progressive Artists movement, held his first show at the Taj Mahal hotel Prince’s Room in 1945. He gave top priority to drawing and was considered a master draughtsman.

Over his four decade long career, he experimented with paper, canvas, silk, plywood, Chinese ink, crayon, water colour, tempera and oils. Chavda’s beautiful portrayals of dance in its various forms caught the art world’s attention & have made up a large portion of his body of work. He often created sketches of dancers from the Russian Imperial ballet, the Royal Ballet and New York City Ballet, including renowned ballerinas such as Margot Fonteyn and Anna Pavlova. He was also fascinated by animals which he felt were “naked and offer a real test to one’s skills of draughtsmanship.”

Chavda’s paintings are currently exhibited in several esteemed museums including the Victoria & Albert Museum London, Budapest Museum, The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, Baroda museum, corporate houses like Tatas and Godrej & Boyce, institutions like Northcote nursing home and other private and public collections in India and abroad. He has held 42 one man shows in Mumbai, as well as a few in Ahmedabad, Djakarta, Singapore, London, Paris, Zurich and New York.

The artist passed away on August 18, 1990 at the age of 76. Kekoo Gandhy, a friend and owner of Chemould gallery said in an interview, “I will always like to remember him through his sketch books and his Gouache (tempera) technique (where you mix paint with egg yolk). His draughtsmanship was incomparable. But more than the artist perhaps it was Shiavax the man who had my greatest admiration and respect. He was very warm, dignified and very proper, a far cry from the archetypal shabby artist…”

About the Artist – Shiavax Chavda

Born on June 18, 1914 to a Parsi family in Navsari, Gujarat, Shiavax Chavda began his artistic training at the JJ School of Art. One of the few Indian artists to study abroad, he continued his training at the Slade School of Fine Arts in London. It was here that he learnt from great artists who greatly impacted his style, Professor Randolph Schwabe, R G Eves and Vladimir Polunin, (a pupil of the great Russian stage designer Leon Bakst, working for Sir Thomas Beecham & the Diaghilev Ballet). Being awarded the Sir William Orpen bursary, he continued to hone his skills at the St Martin School of Art London and the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere, Paris, before returning home to India.

Upon his return, Chavda travelled extensively from the hills of Assam and the Himalayas, to the villages of Gujarat and South India, recording all he saw in his sketch books. Chavda, later travelled to Indonesia and Malaya which led to his numerous pen and ink sketches of Balinese dancers, masks and temple sculptures. His travels through India & other parts of the world have greatly influenced his style of art & this is visible in his work. But it was his portrayals of dance in its various forms that caught the art world’s attention. Married to Khurshid Vajifdar, part of the Vajifdar sisters trio who were experts in Indian classical dance, it’s no wonder that dance dominated his canvases. His deft strokes captured dancers of the Russian Imperial ballet, the Royal Ballet and New York City Ballet, including renowned ballerinas such as Margot Fonteyn and Anna Pavlova.

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Sketch 1

Sketch 2

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He was also fascinated by animals which he felt were “naked and offer a real test to one’s skills of draughtsmanship.” He worked on a series of paintings on cocks, as well as captured animals in the local circus and the aquarium.

The artist who was part of the Bombay Progressive Artists movement, held his first show at the Taj Mahal hotel Prince’s Room in 1945. He gave top priority to drawing and was considered a master draughtsman. In an interview in the Indian Drawing Today 1987, the artist said, “In the summer of 1938, when war seemed imminent, I could not leave London. So I stayed on and systematically visited the British Museum’s Print Room and spent more than two months in making an intense study of World’s best original drawings of Italian, Dutch, French, Indian, Mughal and Chinese masters spending six to seven hours a day in a quiet atmosphere…Drawing according to me is a linear depiction of an idea or experience in shorthand. ‘Those who cannot draw have an excuse to paint,’ a statement made by Paul Gauguin was indeed profound.”

Over his four decade long career, he experimented with paper, canvas, silk, plywood, Chinese ink, crayon, water colour, tempera and oils and often used his Gouache (tempera) technique, where paint is mixed with egg yolk.

He worked on a number of murals during his long career for the Parliament House, New Delhi, Air India building Mumbai, Air India Washington DC, Gandhi Darshan New Delhi and the Reliance Textile Industries Ltd Mumbai. But perhaps his most prominent one is the three murals in tantric style at Tata Theatre, NCPA, commissioned by Jamshed Bhabha, executive trustee.

Chavda’s paintings have found a home in several museums including the Victoria & Albert Museum London, Budapest Museum, The National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, Baroda museum, corporate houses like Tatas and Godrej Boyce & Co, institutions like Northcote nursing home and other private and public collections in India and abroad. He has held 42 one man shows in Mumbai, as well as a few in Ahmedabad, Djakarta, Singapore, London, Paris, Zurich and New York.

The artist passed away on August 18, 1990 at the age of 76. Kekoo Gandhy, a friend and owner of Chemould gallery said in an interview to Mid-Day newspaper, “I will always like to remember him through his sketch books, and his Gouache (tempera) technique (where you mix paint with egg yolk). His draughtsmanship was incomparable. But more than the artist perhaps it was Shiavax the man who had my greatest admiration and respect. He was very warm, dignified and very proper, a far cry from the archetypal shabby artist…”

What Notable Art Critics & Art Writers had to say about the Master SHIAVAX CHAVDA

W.G Archer, Keeper of the Indian Section of the Victoria and Albert museum in London, where his paintings are on display, said, “Perhaps the greatest problem facing modern Indian artists is the harmonious reconciliation of two distinct influences, the traditions of European painting culminating in Picasso, and those of Indian painting with emphasis on poetry and line. Few artists have been able to reconcile the two with any convincing results but among those who have succeeded must be numbered Shiavax Chavda.”

Art writer Arkay wrote in the Afternoon newspaper, “All through his art journey, Chavda tried to put on canvas the meaning, the essence, the beauty and wonder of the classical dances of India particularly Bharatnatyam. He was evidently fascinated by the dance. He brought out the grace and the beauty of the dancer. He produced hundreds of sketches and paintings on this theme. The vibrations, the swirls, the rhythm, the balance, the creative energy of the dance were expressed in his paintings. For him it was an everlasting search, it walks like chasing a rainbow in child-like wonder, trying to catch it, hold it in one’s memory.”

Noted art writer A.S Raman wrote in the Sunday Standard Magazine, “Few artists in India have a mastery over draughtsmanship matching his. Chavda’s line is fluent, forthright and flawless. He can capture a given moment with uncanny accuracy and spontaneity. The studied casualness of his line is deceptive. For there is a good deal of concentration and preparation packed into it.”

Art critic H Goetz had written in the Lalit Kala, “The line is the life and soul of Chavda’s art. He is best where he can fully employ it without further considerations, above all, in sketches drawn in a few seconds, and in figures in excited movement. Chavda is the draughtsman of all dancers, whether Indian, Javanese or Balinese, Russian or English. He is likewise the draughtsman of animals, of the elastic suppleness of their slim or plump, but always musculous bodies. The verve of the medieval temple sculptures he has on his fingertips and thus is a master of their interpretation.”

_DSC0594Art critic Dnyaneshwar Nadkarni had noted in the New India digest, “The Murals had to be in Tantric style. Chavda read through all the useful books on that cult. In spite of his advancing years, he did not hesitate to get up on a scaffolding and do the painting himself…Few of us realise what an achievement it is for the now departed painter. In a way, these awe-inspiring murals with their authentic Tantric format are one of the best memorials for Chavda.”

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