TYEB MEHTA (1925-2009)
PROPERTY FROM GARDEN SILK MILLS LTD: THE CHAIRMAN'S COLLECTION Founded in 1921 by Dr. Amichand Shah and now led by Praful A. Shah and the third generation of the Shah family, Garden Silk Mills, Ltd. is India's leading fabric engineer, designer and manufacturer. Today, Garden is a household name in India. Over the years, while Praful Shah and his wife, Shilpa expanded the company they formed two major art collections: the preeminent collection of Indian historic textiles housed under TAPI (Textiles & Art of the People of India) and a significant collection of modern and contemporary Indian art housed under the corporate collection of Garden Silk Mills, Ltd. The Shahs are deeply committed to collecting, preserving and exhibiting Indian arts. They began collecting modestly, but over the years as their passion for the arts increased, they went about collecting systematically, consulting experts, developing expertise of their own, and built a distinguished collection reflective of both their upbringing and cosmopolitan life in Mumbai. The Shahs' approach to collecting is highly personal and deeply symbolic. Their textile collection, TAPI, focuses on the textiles of Gujarat and pichhwais - devotional textiles of the Pushti Marg (the Path of Grace). The corporate collection represents the best of modern and contemporary Indian Art available today with outstanding examples from both the masters and the new generation including, MF Husain, Tyeb Mehta, FN Souza, Atul Dodiya and Anju Dodiya. The vibrancy of this collection invokes the growth of their company and the economic growth and modernization of post-independence India. The Shahs are true visionaries bridging tradition and modernity, with deep insight and love for the rich heritage of India, from the textiles, to the pichhwais, to the art of today. May they be an inspiration for new collectors.
TYEB MEHTA (1925-2009)

Untitled (Figures with Bull Head)

Details
TYEB MEHTA (1925-2009)
Untitled (Figures with Bull Head)
oil on canvas
59 X 41 3/8 in. (149.9 x 105 cm.)
Painted in 1984
Provenance
Christie's New York, 20 September 2006, lot 63
Collection of Guy and Helen Barbier, Geneva
Literature
Coups de Coeur, Halles de I'lle, exhibition catalogue, Geneva, 1987 p. 81 (illustrated)
R. Hoskote, 'Tyeb Mehta: The Pure Artist', Forbes India Online Edition, 31 July 2009 (illustrated, unpaginated)
Exhibited
Geneva, Halles de I'lle, Coups de Coeur, July - August 1987

Lot Essay

Figures with Bull Head is a milestone achievement for Tyeb Mehta and likely belongs to the suite of very few works he created while at Santiniketan after a long hiatus. Mehta has himself mentioned, that though it pre-figures his obsession with the themes of the Goddess Durga, this work demonstrates that he was grappling with the formal and psychological elements that lead to his famed series of works as far back as the early 1980s.

Executed in 1984, this work maintains remnants of the diagonal horizon line, however the figures are allowed to exist in their entirety, without the transversal split. In Mehta's works from the 70s, the diagonal line allowed a single figure to adopt different forms on each side, giving Mehta the flexibility to explore different means of representation in a single painting. This segmentation of the canvas is continued in works from the early 80s, however as seen in Figures with Bull Head, it slowly becomes less obtrusive showing a maturity of style.

This painting is an important turning point in Mehta's work by illustrating a growing complexity in composition and the facility of line. As Mehta explains, "I became interested in using pure color. Normally brush marks suggest areas of directions. I wanted to avoid all this to bring elements down to such a minimal level that the image alone would be sufficient to speak for itself." (Interview by N. T. Seth, Tyeb Mehta: Ideas, Images, Exchanges, New Delhi, 2005, p. 342) His harshly textured impressionistic brushstrokes from his early days are completely transformed at this point into a new painting mode. Large expanses of flat, both earthy and vibrant colors are paired with a conscious two-dimensionality focused more on line than contour. Together line and color are juxtaposed to create deconstructed figures with disjointed limbs. The presence of the two intermingled women in this work suggests the tangled figures of his later Mahisasura series where, in his interpretation of the Hindu epic story of Mahisha and Durga, the warrior goddess, woman, bull and demon, become entangled in a cosmic dance where they are nearly indistinguishable.

At Santiniketan Mehta spiritually and physically recuperated from a major illness. It was here he received the creative epiphany that enabled him in the next twenty years of his career to paint his most iconic works: the Rickshaw series, the Mahisasura series, and the two major triptychs inspired by the Charak festival, Santiniketan 1985 and Celebration 1995.

Furthermore, Santiniketan reinforced Mehta's search for the meaning of suffering and the relationship between humans, animals and gods in the context of modern life. "With the painter of experience there is necessarily a limitation of themes. After all there are only one or two important themes a great painter has to say, and he spends his entire lifetime trying to say them. Since he is not a chameleon or merely a painter of moods, occasions for anecdotes, the very act of painting is for him a painful process. It is painful also because it is a search, a ceaseless search, and the energy exuded in the course of that search is tremendous." (E. Alkazi, 'The Works of Tyeb Mehta' as published in Tyeb Mehta: Ideas, Images Exchanges, New Delhi, 2005, p. 368)

At the same time, Mehta continued to develop distinctly unique minimalist painting techniques. "In a lifetime's work, viewed as a process, it could be said that Tyeb achieved on the one hand an articulation of pain and struggle and a saga of survival, and at the same time a painterly language which parallels reality with equal resilience. The increasing debilitation of political and civic life around him was witnessed with a restrained economy of line which conveyed both the pain and transcending of it as an interlocked movement of form." (Y. Dalmia, 'Metamorphosis: From Mammal to Man', Tyeb Mehta: Triumph of Vision, New Delhi, 2011, pp. 27-29) Figures with Bull Head is situated philosophically and formally at a major turning point in Mehta's life and an exceptional example of what makes Mehta's works masterpieces of Indian modernism.
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