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Signed 'Sabavala' (lower right)

The Jehangir Sabavala Foundation, Mumbai.

Ranjit Hoskote, Pilgrim, Exile, Sorcerer: The Painterly Evolution of Jehangir Sabavala, Bombay, p. 63

Jehangir Sabavala’s painting, ‘Objects Composed’, epitomises a phase of his oeuvre during the mid-1950s when the artist was adapting the Cubism of his Parisian training at the Academie Andre Lhote to the physical environment and conceptual possibilities of a newly independent India. Sabavala’s early experiments with the development of a localised Cubist idiom – he would eventually leave Cubism behind – included a robust engagement with the artefacts, natural elements, vegetation and colour of India, and most importantly, its tropical light. Unlike the diffuse northern light of Europe, which rendered the outlines and volumes of objects hazy, the harsh glare of the tropics gave every object a hard and definite edge and a certain flatness.

Like Braque and Picasso, the masters of the Cubist guild, Sabavala took up the still life as a point of departure. All the masses and volumes that comprise ‘Objects Composed’ are translated into a system of flattened planes, as though they were pieces in a jigsaw, shards in a kaleidoscope, or the tesserae of a mosaic. Through this conceptual manoeuvre, the artist orchestrates a re-arrangement of visually received reality into a set of conceptual elements. He also achieves a sweeping move beyond the still life, to embrace the interior and a suggestion of landscape within the compass of this work. Note the pot, the vase, the tablecloth, as well as the table and a hint of window, as well as the flowers in the vase, which explode like suns. What seems at first like a simple gesture, that of putting a set of objects together into a temporary ensemble, is revealed as a magical gesture: this, after all, is how we put the disparate fragments of our experience together, to produce a world.

Jehangir Sabavala

(1922 - 2011)
Born in 1922 in Mumbai, Jehangir Sabavala’s career has spanned more than sixty years since his first solo exhibition at the Taj Art Gallery, Mumbai in 1951. After receiving his Fine Arts Diploma from the Sir J. J. School of Art in 1944, Sabavala went to Europe and studied in the Heatherley School of Art, London from 1945 to 1947, the Academie Andre L’hote from 1948 to 1951, the Academie Julian from 1953 to 1954, and the Academic de la Grande Chaumiere in 1957, all in Paris. Sabavala has exhibited at prestigious national and international venues and held solo exhibitions of his Paintings in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, New Delhi, Edinburgh, London, and New York since 1951. A retrospective exhibition of his works was organized at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai and New Delhi in 2005-06. The Government of India awarded him with the Padma Shri in 1977. He also contributed his writings to many publications since 1951. Sabavala passed away in 2011.