Atul Dodiya

Atul Dodiya: Untitled – II (German Girlfriend), 2016
Watercolor, chalk, coal, pencil, pastel and modeling clay on paper
Courtesy Udit Bhambri

Untitled – II (German Girlfriend), 2016

Who depicted “Katharina the Moor”? Albrecht Dürer introduced her into art history, in the form of a silverpoint drawing, in 1521. The “moor” casts her eyes downward, as befits a domestic servant. (Outing Dürer as a racist solely for this would be too easy; he created a drawing that depicts an African, realized no differently than his portraits of distinguished European colleagues.)  Who depicted “Katharina” or who reproduces Dürer’s portrait of her? Dodiya can draw like Dürer, he’s blessed with this virtuosity, but he alters the picture surface that Dürer’s model stands out against. Patches of color, in pastel purple and in black, organize the space. They pay no heed to the face. A non-figurative, painterly image abruptly emerges, one which doesn’t quite want to fit with Dürer’s silverpoint. But would does “fit” even mean?

If we turn the story around, then Dodiya paints colors and shapes. But painterly abstraction risks meaninglessness, which isn’t Dodiya’s interest (colors and shapes, yes, it’s true they can fit any wall, but what else?). This is where “Katharina” comes in—at the moment when an artist cannot go any further because painting has, for him, become too servile.