Shanti Dave’s abstracts resemble—at first—the familiar and the unknown. There are writings, figures, deities, forms and shapes that resonate with what we seem to know. If the language is indecipherable, perhaps it belongs to some ancient texts lost to history. Is this his ode to a civilisation that existed in the past, or a prophesy of one to come? Is it a world hidden underwater? Or perhaps one alien to us because it comes from some other planet? Are these tombstones, or markers, of some mythological or historical realm?
Born in 1932, in Ahmedabad, India, Shanti Dave trained at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Baroda, one of the country’s finest art schools, before moving to New Delhi where he began to experiment with encaustic, diversifying from figurative art in search of an abstract expression. Combining calligraphy with notions of the accustomed, he was able to arrive at a new language, rich with clues but without a definitive context or meaning. His works from the 1960s and ’70s have a range and diversity that is a celebration of the bold attempt to break away from the conventional.
A celebrated muralist and printmaker, these paintings by Dave are part of a planned retrospective on this exceptionally talented artist that go a long way towards unravelling the explorations in the abstract vernacular in mid-twentieth century India.