UNTITLED (TROJAN WOMEN)
UNTITLED (TROJAN WOMEN)
Chinese ink on rice paper
19 3/4 x 25 1/4 in. (50 x 64 cm.)
Bearing a Pundole Art Gallery label on reverse
Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai.
Tyeb Mehta Ideas Images Exchanges, New Delhi, 2005, p. 264, illustrated.
In 1966, Tyeb Mehta completed a series of ink on paper works titled Trojan Women. These drawings were produced after watching the rehearsals of the play of the same name by Euripides, that Ebrahim Alkazi had directed in Delhi in 1966 for the National School of Drama (NSD). Alkazi, a pivotal figure in the history of Modern Indian Art, was a good friend of the artist. In his role as Director of the NSD, he believed that it was important for Indians to be exposed to Western literature in addition to Indian writings. Similarly, he was equally committed to familiarising them with a history of Western art along with the Indian art of the time, and conceived a series of exhibitions and projects that would allow them to discover and 'contextualise contemporary Indian art in an international context.'
Mehta's fascination with a Greek tragedy perfectly illustrates this 'melding' that Alkazi was aiming to achieve, where Western thought and Eastern aesthetics merged to create a 'hybrid, pluralistic, and sectarian form of art practice...' It was equally important for him to try and find a way for art forms to translate from one to the other, so that theatre could be reflected in art and vice-versa. (Yashodhara Dalmia, 'Modernism and Indian Art Ebrahim Alkazi in Conversation', Ebrahim Alkazi, Directing Art, The Making of a Modern Indian Art World, Ahmedabad, 2016, p. 73)
The play by Euripides is a tragedy that was written in 415 B.C. during the Peloponnesian war. The play is often considered a commentary on the capture of the Aegean island of Melos by the Athenians and their subsequent slaughter of its populace. The play itself begins after the fall of Troy and the massacre of all its male inhabitants, with Hecuba and the other captive women of Troy mourning the loss of their sons and husbands and lamenting their own fate. The impact that the play had upon Mehta is clear from the number of works he produced around the same theme (most of which eventually became part of Alkazi's own collection).
In the opening speech to Mehta's 1966 solo exhibition Alkazi states, 'Tyeb is a figurative painter. His loyalty to the human figure I interpret also as loyalty to human values, to a recognition of man as being always and forever the centre of the universe. But this is not facile humanity, composed of accepted token and cliches. I believe Tyeb is an extremely difficult painter to understand... There is no seductive appeal of colour or form and content. On the contrary like cunning barbed wire entanglements and barricades, set with mines and booby traps, and machine gun nests all carefully camouflaged- a region which only the determined and intrepid beholder would dare to cross. And having crossed it, somewhat bloodied and exhausted what does he find? Nothing but the tattered regalia of human vanity; the terrifying winding labyrinth of eternal symbols of human faith and human despair and human dignity. There is a desolate beauty in the ravaged works, the bleak beauty of lonely, stricken places, haunted by the wind only, lit by a light neither of the day nor of the stars, but of man's spirit. These are landscapes of the human spirit, forlorn and tragic and uncompromisingly alone.' (Excerpt from Ebrahim Alkazi's speech for the opening of Tyeb Mehta's 1966 solo exhibition, reprinted in Tyeb Mehta Ideas Images Exchanges, New Delhi, 2005, p. 371)
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About The Artist:
TYEB MEHTA (1925-2009)