Mehlli Gobhai

Energy Diagrams
Mehlli Gobhai (1931-2018) pursued the objective of formal structure with a singular focus during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Renouncing his festive polychrome compositions of the mid-1970s, he adopted an austere palette of black, white and brown, occasionally relieved by saturated greens, terracotta and poster reds, ecru, and burgundy. In the spirit of an architect or surveyor, he used the plumb string, mapping his canvases by reference to the clarity of its line and the arc of its swing. Figures, vestigially present in his paintings of the mid-1970s, receded, leaving behind only their sharp, geometricized outlines. The imageless image, built from horizontal, vertical, diagonal and tilted lines, took centre stage. Fields of darkness contended with shards of illumination, as he moved towards an evocation of axial linearity.
By 1979, Gobhai’s works assumed the form of energy diagrams, marked by scalar weights and vector forces. The quadrilaterals in these paintings are often shaped according to the golden section, a universal mathematical and geometrical ratio found in nature, architecture and music – in spiral venation, the pyramids, and the compositions of Claude Debussy and Erik Satie. Fittingly, the route to these paintings was laid through preparatory cut-outs, collages and drawings reduced to the taut interplay of line and curve.
Experimentally, during this period, Gobhai used oils and acrylics as well as casein inks, dry pastels, aluminium powder, and conté. During this period, recognition came to him in the form of two major museum exhibitions in which he was invited to participate: ‘Marking Black’, curated by Madeleine Burnside (Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, 1980) and ‘Hard Line: Drawing as a Primary Medium’ (Islip Art Museum, New York, 1984).
Ranjit Hoskote & Nancy Adajania
(Curators, Mehlli Gobhai: Epiphanies, Chemould Prescott Road, 2021)

Chemould Prescott Road
Untitled (Energy Diagrams), 1975 - 1976
Chemould Prescott Road
Untitled (Energy Diagrams), c. 1975 - 1976
Chemould Prescott Road
Untitled (Energy Diagrams), 1976
Chemould Prescott Road
Untitled (Energy Diagrams), c. 1975 - 1976
Chemould Prescott Road
Untitled (Energy Diagrams), 1976
Chemould Prescott Road
Untitled (Energy Diagrams), 1975
Chemould Prescott Road
Untitled (Energy Diagrams), c. 1975 - 1976
Chemould Prescott Road
Untitled (Energy Diagrams), 1975 - 1976
Chemould Prescott Road
Untitled (Energy Diagrams), c. 1975 - 1976
Chemould Prescott Road
Untitled (Energy Diagrams), c. 1975 - 1976

Chemould Prescott Road

Holding Space (for the Global South) In the oft disputed battleground of global history writing and history making, showcasing one’s own history is not an easy task, nor is it a unilateral one. This curated presentation of drawings, sculpture, textile and mixed media installations by Chemould Prescott Road balances this very delicate tension of multiple vantage points of identity, memory and territory whilst steadfastly holding crucial space for the South in global narrative building. Desmond Lazaro’s gold and pigment laden Dymaxion Map III creates a non-hierarchical comprehension of the world, absent of embedded cultural identifiers of up-down, North-South. This cartographic revisitation is complemented through Shilpa Gupta’s 100 Hand Drawn Maps of my Country documenting the differences in people’s idea of territorial belonging versus the reality experienced by them in Ecuador, India, South Korea, Israel/Palestine. The above multiplicity of mark making through carbon on paper find their static copper sculptural companion in Gupta’s MapTracing#1-IN. This is nuanced further by Reena Kallat’s River Drawings displaying the aching futility of physical barbed-wire boundaries attempting to create ownership of natural entities like water Mithu Sen’s Nothing Lost In Translation insists on widening this story telling of public consciousness by creating ambiguous forms on Japanese kozo paper, not restricted by immediate locality, or gender, race, caste, class. This continuing paradox of certain realities being cultural equalizers, such as endless, yet finite, consciousness experienced while sleeping, is captured through Jitish Kallat’s The Infinite Episode. The restful slumber of it’s scaled down sculptural animal forms is in contrast to the dense pigment dyed animals and birds in Noah’s Ark clamouring at the bottom of this descending scroll-tent in Lavanya Mani’s The Ark Animals of the World Complain to the Raven (after Mishkin). They are sparing no one the urgency of this approaching ecological distress. In an increasingly divisive world, these ideas of identity, memory and territory presented by these artworks create a much-required space for contemplation, collaboration, and conversation. Shaleen Wadhwana, 2021
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