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The metaphor ‘divine’ is apt- for it allows the exploration of many ideas embedded in the practice of the artist. In a basic understanding, divine means ‘of god’ or ‘god like’; in some instances ‘pleasing’ or ‘supernatural’ of an experience and differs with individuals. Trace further, as discovery, perception, grasping and happening becomes implicit to divine. We are preoccupied with time element as marking factor, throughout the day in our routine rituals. Light is an exclusive chapter in our everyday life that gets embedded consciously or subconsciously from Douglas John’s art practice for years.
For Douglas John the experience of space, form and light in the urban metropolis like Mumbai has remained possible thread of departure while studying at Sir Jamshetjee Jeejeebhoy School of Art, Mumbai and in later years of his art-making process. His recent works “Inner Divinity” are acrylic on canvas with large and smaller works. Douglas- reorganises the word ‘light’ to explore the lived landscape to aesthetics of monuments and buildings from the city, Mumbai. The Gothic style buildings- dome structures that collide in the buzzing Kalaghoda, fleeting imagery of slums and enormous temples, shrines popped on streets or hillock in past decades overlaps in wavering patterns. The unsettling phenomenon of light explores and questions to the drift in migration for us to ponder upon.
Douglas on moving to Mumbai in late 80s from the town Solapur enlivens this city much like yesteryears of bringing expressions. The city with multitudes of people layered in his recent works carries human presence in time and urban geography- irremovable, growing component making us to re-think pragmatics of relocation if not an exclusive phenomenon today. The artist delve on canvas with brimming meaning manifesting components of human figures and space very sensitively with diverse use of pigments. Deep enchanting spirituality inhabit the pace and tonalities of white with materialism surfacing in gold leaf.
The works in this selection invites us to live between transition and destiny. Inner Divinity gestures to the active dialogues and stillness that at once dwells within us.
For Douglas John the experience of space, form and light in the urban metropolis like Mumbai has remained possible thread of departure while studying at Sir Jamshetjee Jeejeebhoy (JJ) School of Art, Mumbai and in later years of his art-making process. He completed formal art schooling in 1990 and started teaching at the applied department in the same premise. It was 1993 onwards that he was appointed at the department of fine art which kept him delve on two side- as an artist and professor. His work and research in diverse media using painting, video, and sculpture are significant manifestations to his career of art practice.
Douglas John, mesmerised and fascinated after moving to Mumbai; painted landscapes everyday starting early- on streets, upfront structures lend by the British to this city, he asserts, while recalling tonal and angular aspects of light at his Thane studio. His eye for minute detailing, recording form and space using watercolour and oils began during his art schooling. Douglas John was inspired by the paintings of Thomas Moran, which he had an opportunity to see at exhibition in 1987 at National Centre for Performing Art (NCPA), Mumbai. Under influence of S. H Raza, N.S Bendre’s rendition of landscapes, he grew turning pages of Soviet Union magazine seeing works by Picasso, Van gogh.
He was observant to study the nuances of light making landscape painting of Mumbai’s Victorian gothic style monuments, colossus BMC building facing Victoria Terminus (present day Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus), and fleeting imageries often recorded as he combed streets at Chor bazaar and many such as a student. The artist set a post-revivalist approach exploring notion of light- as physical, transient, immersive, and sometimes questioning a lived landscape and sheer activity of everyday.
His sculptures and video made the viewer to pause and experience the city of Mumbai. The memory lane of bazaars to dabbawallas in their act of balancing, translated to sculptures to stepping up on horse-carriage viewing 17 minute film shot in the Victoria carriage were exhibited in his first solo exhibition entitled Mumbai Déjà-vu in 2003. A ride in to bygone times giving viewer a momentous recalibration in time and space.
Douglas John is the recepient of many awards such as - State Award in painting Landscape, Maharashtra State Art exhibition in 1993. The National Achievement Award for Kala Ratna’ presented For outstanding individual achievements and distinguished services To the nation and society in 2008. The National Academy Award in the 60th National Exhibition of Art for Paintings from the series `Inner Divinity’ in 2019.
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