An interchange of ideas and modes of practice particularly in the visual and performing arts, philosophy and literature and the deeply felt need to study and understand diverse cultural and ethnological traditions across the globe characterized the late colonial period. As the world became more accessible with the expansion of trade and establishment of colonial hegemony relatively unknown perspectives of creative expression, worldviews, and systems of thinking long prevalent in the Indian subcontinent, South East Asia, China and the Far East particularly Japan, were introduced to the European cultural and aesthetic milieus which influenced the West in unexpected ways. The introduction of prints and books on the Japanese woodblock printing traditions with their distinctive styles and colour values into Europe by traders, for instance, powerfully influenced and transformed the techniques and conceptualization of western styles of painting in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This interchange of aesthetic and cultural ideas continued across the globe in the colonial era during which western techniques such as easel painting, a hitherto unknown concept of artistic expression in the region, made a profound impact on the creative' arts particularly in the Indian subcontinent, where traditional and indigenous arts were practiced with great skill and vision. The mid- nineteenth century saw the establishment of art institutions by the British in the major metropolitan cities of colonial India, that were drawn on the lines of their counterparts in Britain, to provide formal academic education in the study of European art, its techniques and aesthetic concepts in the region. With this the growth of an academic art movement based on formal European techniques of painting and sculpture evolved in the subcontinent that gradually matured through the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This conservative academic approach to art practice and creative expression taught in art schools was questioned by artists in the early decades of the twentieth century, where they felt the need to assimilate western art forms and techniques into the expression of ideas and images that were rooted in the indigenous environment and established art traditions of the Indian subcontinent. They worked towards a better understanding of the strong aesthetic vision of the past and sought to assimilate its essence into their creative expression so that they could remain in tune with their artistic heritage while painting in the western mode. The Bengal School with its revivalist idiom created work that carried imprints of the techniques of the Indian miniature tradition, illuminated manuscripts, folk art and the classical painting techniques of Ajanta and related sites. While working in this direction the Tagores and other outstanding artists among them Nandalal Bose and Binode Bihari Mukherjee, achieved a dimension of sophistication and artistry by combining indigenous techniques of art practice and imagery with the powerful expressivity of western aesthetic ideation and painterly vision.
The Western Indian region that largely covers the erstwhile Bombay Presidency, however, had its own distinctive aesthetic imperatives, that found expression particularly in the period between the early and mid twentieth century, which had a western academic slant overlaid by strong influences of impressionistic and expressionistic techniques that conveyed an inherent understanding of colour, light, mood and the expression of deeply felt emotions and connectivity with the subject that was handled. It is the instinctive understanding of their indigenous roots and the impassioned quest to find a personal visual vocabulary that assimilated a variety of evolving western painterly techniques and stylistic elements into their idiom that adds a flavour of uniqueness to the work of these artists. It is to this lineage of artist-adventurers of the Western Indian School that D. J. Joshi belongs. Throughout his distinguished career as an academecian and painter he remained strongly bonded to Maheshwar, the seat of the Holkars of Indore, and Malva, the land of the Narmada, the turbulent river that runs through the heart of the Indian subcontinent. Its dynamic waters, which skirt the gorges of the Vindyachal mountains, fired Joshi's imagination as he sketched and painted on its banks. He captured the magical topography of this region throughout the shifting moods of the ritusamharas, the cycle of the seasons, in a large body of light filled canvases, luminous oils on hardboard, numerous paperworks in aqua relies, temperas, gouache and a plethora of sketches rendered in pastels, ink pen and charcoals.
Master Strokes V continues in the series instituted during the Jehangir Art Gallery Golden Jubilee Celebrations presenting a solo show of the work of Devikrishan Jatashankar Joshi (1911 - 1984). The range of paintings and sculptures on view give an insight into the versitality and creative vision of this artist, who distinguished himself as a teacher heading art institutions at various points in time including his alma mater, the Indore School of Art, and subsequently the Lakshmi Kala Bhavan and Chitrakala Mandir at Dhar. Throughout his academic career Joshi continued to remain committed to his work as a professional artist and preferred to live in the Malva region on the banks of the Narmada painting the native Bhils, vast landscapes and panoramic views of the temple towns, fortresses, villages and bazaars that dotted the valley and gorges of the Vindhyachal range of mountains and most importantly the varying moods and shifting currents of the Narmada as it flowed past the fortress, the temple of the legendary queen Ahilyabai Holkar on the ghats of Maheshwar and the temple town of Omkareshwar. While Joshi preferred to live and work by the Narmada he did travel widely sketching and painting landscapes and portraits of the local people as is evident in his Kashmir series and views of Haridwar in the Himalayas. Prithvi, jal, akasha, earth, water and sky are juxtaposed in an elemental sweep of energy and light in Joshi's landscapes. These large compositions rendered in oils on canvas and hardboard combine an organic sweep of open grounds that hold areas active with a flurry of light brushstrokes, that are layered to reveal the inner architectonic nuances of built structures. They overlook the contrasting broad sweeps of jewel toned pigment that signify riverine water bodies juxtaposed by dark organic tones that mark the breadth of mountains, outline the sharp prows of boats tethered along the riverscapes and provide a contrast to the bright thrust of luminous temple spires that rise out a swirl of low hillocks and squat structures piled one over the other. There is a feel of great distance and depth in these topographies that seem to be lit from within. Joshi's pen sketches, pastel drawings and charcoals capture the fleeting moment of light and shadow, mood and glance. They are often rendered in a quirky swirl of lines and loops that are full of movement and expression. Houses, balconies, towers build an organic unity as they grow out of one another soaring into the elemental breadth of sky. These large oil canvases, hardboard surfaces as well as the smaller paperworks are full of impressionistic flourishes of brushwork that capture the natural play of colour and light while they simultaneously carry the expressionistic need to feel and experience the mood of the aesthetic moment that Joshi combined to create his individualistic visual vocabulary.
Joshi's landscapes seethe with an internal organic life force as mountains loom above the broad sweep of the flowing waters of the Narmada, at times turbulent or otherwise serene and majestic. Broad sweeping brushstrokes that are full of a tonal depth direct the full radiance of streams of light to drench the landscapes, catching the spires of temples, the brows of the mountains, the high towers of fortresses and the open grounds that are alive with a moving organic energy. A deep luminosity underlies the blue waters of the Narmada as it meanders through vast topographies. Light and shadow interplay effectively in these primordial landscapes that Joshi returned to time and again to reinvent their magic with a freshness of vision that is admirable. In contrast to these broad natural vistas Joshi's painterly eye also captured the more intimate perspectives of bazaars, a view into alleys and inner townscapes. Here his protagonists are not clearly visible. They merge into a scene where awnings, buildings, baskets of wares including vegetables, grain and fish, are grouped together to build an organic whole while open grounds reflect the still timelessness of the moment. Both in the aquarelles, temperase and gouache on paper as well as his oils Joshi invests a living energy in his work that comes from the inner light that underlies his compositions, the movement that is embedded in his varied brushwork as well as the contrastive colours that he blends to animate the smooth and textured surfaces, that he juxtaposes in his compositions. 'Golden Light', his large oil on canvas, is full of this mystery and movement. The luminous tonal nuances play with the light and shadow that move within and around the fishing boat that is alive with its own powerful life energy. The golden light and dark brown contrasts hold an existentialist flourish as a cluster of fishermen wind the nets and work within the body of the boat. The squeezed tube method of creating ridges of pigment that Joshi used reminiscent of Van Gogh's later works creates an elemental burst of energy, a slight impasto that gives an inner dimension to the depth of bright light and shadow that adds a note of distinct drama to the work.
In Kalidasa, an oil portrait of the classical poet of Indian antiquity, Joshi offers an unusual blend of a high jewel toned palette, flat surfaces and a juxtapositioning of inner and outer facets of landscape and architecture that directly refer to the Indian miniature style of painting. The central, seated figure is engrossed in his Muse, the Goddess Saraswati, from whom he draws his inspiration. The luminous green and indigo of the fore- and hintergounds create a flat colour drenched landscape that surrounds the poet in an organic flourish of tonalities that glow with an inner radiance quite like the surfaces of Indian miniatures. The princely presence of the poet framed by pillared arches creates a still center which is balanced by the slender figure of Saraswati, that floats as a divine apparition. In this painting Joshi has brought together the energies that he derives from the western and Indian aesthetic traditions. Among his otherfigurative works the bold, strongly rendered triumvate of Bhil women striding the landscape against an open sky and a romantic Kashmiri beauty looking out at the world have an expressionistic stridency that is typical of Joshi, who as a painter preferred to bring into playa variety of styles in his work.
It was at Dhar that Joshi worked as an assistant to the well known sculptor, Dada Phadke. After a fifteen year stint in Dhar Joshi returned to Indore, where he eventually became principal of the Indore School of Art. While he was essentially a prolific painter Joshi is well known for the monumental sculpture he created in variety of materials that included bronze, marble, cement, clay and papier mache. The large sculptures of Jhansi ki Rani, Jawaharlal Nehru and the cricketer C.K.Naidu are among those installed in public places. His serene marble statue of Rani Ahilyabai of Indore is a tribute to his native Maheshwar, where he spent many hours in his childhood obse'rving the waters of the Narmada. While Joshi's sculpture is rugged and statuesque and infused with a strong emotive quality, it is also displays a playful tenderness seen in his papier mache portrayal of a cow and calf.
Born into a Brahmin family of astrologers on the 7th July, 1911, Devikrishn Jatashankar Joshi preferred to follow his instincts and become an artist. His long career as a painter, sculptor and academic saw him receive many awards and medals including the Madras Fine Arts Society award for artistic excellence, the Punjab Government's gold medal for the arts and the gold medal of the All India Kalidas Art and Sculpture Exhibition at Ujjain in his early years as a student and young artist. The accolades continued to come his way throughout his life and culminated in his receiving the prestigious Madhya Pradesh Shikar Sanman award honouring his distinguished contribution to the arts and art education in the state. Joshi spoke with great affection and respect of his mentor and professor Dattatray Damodar Deulalikar and valued the friendship of the distinguished artist, Narayan Shridhar Bendre. As a member of the Friday Group, Joshi participated in lively discussions and activities related to the arts with fellow artists. Well after he had retired from the academic world Joshi, who had opened a studio cum art gallery Kala Vidhika next to his residence, continued to carry his art materials and canvases to the banks of the Narmada and the ghats of Maheshwar and spend the day along with his students painting and sketching the vistas of the iewel blue waters of flowing river, the brown earth of Malva and the dark indigo Vindhyas looming in the distance.
Master Strokes V brings the attention of the viewer to the forces that shaped the existing art scene in India. Several important art movements particularly in the twentieth century built the matrix on which contemporary Indian art thrives. The need to assimilate and integrate the aesthetic vision that nurtures the regional enviornment with the onslaught of global influences continues to remain a problem to be grappled with. As we look back we can see the complexity of the conflicts and problems that characterized the growth of art expression in the Indian subcontinent. Every era of art practice struggles with its own problems and strives to generate an aesthetic vision that reflects the ethos of its time. As we move ahead exploring uncharted territories, questioning old norms and seeking new ways of seeing things this exhibition brings into focus the struggles of the past to achieve an aesthetic language that prepared the ground for the maturing of the contemporary Indian aesthetic vision. It seeks to give a perspective into the historic contribution of the Western Indian region to the metamorphosis of art practice in India.
- 1933, 1928 : Learned under Damodar Devlalikar at Indore School of Art and Learned Sculpture under Shri Raghunath Krishna Phadke.
- 1984 : On his birthday Exhibition of his paintings at Analya Art - Gwalior
- 1983 : On the occasion of His birthday by Rutuphalak Indore
- 1982 : On the occasion of Madhya Pradesh Festival New Delhi Exhibiton of paintings on "Narmada"
- 1981 : Solo Exhibition at Raipur
- 1950 : Group show with Shrenik Jain organised by Bombay Art Society
- 1947, 1949, 1951 & 1979 : Solo Exhibition in mumbai & Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai
- 1981 : "Shikhar Samman" Bharat Bhavan, M.P.
- 1977 : Autography published by Cambridge "Man of Achievement"
- 1975 : Felicitated by Madhya Pradesh Govt. on the occasion of "Utsav 75"
- 1961 : On the occasion of Centenary Celebration of "Saraswati" magazine was felicitated by "Methlisharan Gupta"
- 1959 : Awarded Sprcial Gold Medal by "All India Kalidas Painting & Sculptures Exhibition" Ujjain for "Shakuntala"
- 1955 : 1st National Exhibition Award for "A Sketch"
- 1954 : Gold Medal - Trivandrum "Festival"
- 1953 : 1st Prize Punjab Govt. "Onkareshwar" Silver Trophy & Cash Prize, The Art Society of India
- 1951 : Gold Medal, Madhya Bharat Govt. for Sculpture
- 1950 : Gold Medal, Fine Arts & Craft Exhibition Simla
- 1950 : Gold Medal, Indian Arts Academy - Amritsar
- 1950 : Times of India Award for "Bride Buying Bangles"
- 1949 : Governer's Award, South Indian Society of Painter Egmore, Madras "Boats"
- 1947 : Governer's Award Bombay Art Society "Vegetable Market"
- 1946 : School of Arts Nagpur "Narmada at Mandleshwar"
- 1944 : Best Painting Award from Madhya Bharat Exhibition - Indore for his paintings "Beggar" & "Udaipur"
- 1943 : "Maharaja Gaikwad" Baroda - Cash Award
- 1937 : Award Bombay Arts Society
- 1932, 1936-37 : Award & Bronz Medal - clay modeling - M. P. Govt. Exhibition of "Farming & Agriculture"
- 1935 : Award for set of paintings by Madras Fine Arts Society
- 1935 : Bronz Medal - AIFACS - New Delhi
- 1931, 1932 : Award for Composition, 1st Prize for Portrait, Sir J. J. School of Art, Mumbai
Memorial Sculptures :
- Mahavir Prasad Diwidevi, Bronz
- Police Memorial Bhopal
- Nirala Bronz, Allahbad
- Nehru, Marble
- Ahalyadevi Holkar, Marbal Indore
- Police Memorial Gwalior
- C.K. Naidu Cement, Indore
- Yashwantrao Holkar Bronze, Indore