Active as a painter, printmaker and photographer throughout much of the second half of the 20th century, Bhatt’s life and work belongs to a period of cultural production in India when artists were navigating questions of tradition, modernity and cultural identity as they wrote a new, post-Independence chapter in India’s long art history.
Many of his photographs explore the cultural complexities with regards to the creativity and identity of artists which emerged from the Independence, whilst also continuing to offer a nuanced portrait of Bhatt himself. Highly individual, sensitive and witty, his work is full of empathy and curiosity about the human condition and able to do that rare thing which makes photography so special-to touch us both emotionally and intellectually. Combining the academic and accidental, the poetic and postmodern, his images have stretched the definition of photography in Indian art, disrupting the hierarchies and labels which the art world is often so keen to inflict. In his corpus, binaries like ‘high art’ and ‘low art,’ rural and urban and indigenous and internationalist collapse, foregrounding a more egalitarian practice, and one as inclusive as it is investigative. As art historian Shukla Sawant has written: “Omnivorous in his visual appetite, he adroitly shuffled the cards of cubism, abstract expressionism, pop art as well as local visual expression, to dismantle the distinction between different styles imposed by art historical compulsions.”
This online exhibition coincides with the exhibition at MAP, Bengaluru, more details of which can be seen here.
Self Portrait (New Delhi), 1960, Archival pigment print, Museum number: DC.00703
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