The Parsis Who Painted
For those who’ve missed two of NGMA’S most ambitious shows in recent time, — Across Oceans and Flowing Silks: From Canton to Bombay 18th to 28th Centuries and No Parsi, is an Island —you have only a week before they wind up. The latter, on display at the rotunda gallery on the top floor of the commodious exhibit space, focuses on art created by artists belonging to the Zoroastrian community. Curated by Pheroza Godrej along with Ranjit Hoskote and Nancy Adajania, the show traces works from the late colonial period to the present, including Piloo Pochkhanawala’s sculptures, Jehangir Sabavala’s intricate sketches and Mehlli Gobhai’s abstracts. What is particularly striking is the Indianess celebrated in late artist Shiavax Chavda’s paintings.
Trained in art schools in Mumbai, London and Paris, Chavda was driven by ‘multi-directional curiosity’. After returning home from his stint abroad, he travelled to the villages of Gujarat, Bihar, Ajanta and Ellora. tribal districts of Nagaland and Mizoram and then to Khajuraho, Sanchi and Kashmir. In 1951, when he travellal to the South East, he was inspired to dedicate several of his works to indigenous dance forms. Later, Chavda experimented with Tantric symbolism, evident in the stunning mural at NCPA’s Tata Theatre.
In all the hours he spent painting quietly in a circular terrace studio that he shared with his late danseuse wife Khurshid, his pencil and palette continued to capture the colours of India’s rural life and rich culture. —Reema Gehi – Mumbai Mirror, 5 February 2014