Abirpothi

India’s only daily art newspaper

Rini Dhumal retrospective honours late artist’s ‘Shakti’ at Mumbai’s NGMA

A few months short of a year to her demise, an art show celebrates the strongly feminine, spiritually energetic artworks of Rini Dhumal in an exhibit that coincides with NGMA’s 25th anniversary  

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A tribute to the celebrated artist and printmaker known for her portrayal of women and feminine divinity, the late Rini Dhumal, is being celebrated in an exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Mumbai — and it happens to coincide with the latter’s 25th anniversary celebrations. 

The show is being curated by NGMA director general Adwaita Charan Garanayak, and is titled ‘Shakti: A Retrospective of Rini Dhumal’. 

Scheduled to open in December 2020, the show was postponed for over a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Sadly, Dhumal passed away at age 73 in Gujarat’s Vadodara in September 2021.  

Garanayak decided to open the show as a retrospective this May, and Mid-Day reports that Dhumal’s preserved notes, which listed her masterpieces and also included a write-up for Shakti, helped the NGMA team curate the exhibition. 

The ‘retrospective’ reassembles mixed-media fragments: A few sketchbooks, a voice sample, imported paint-brushes, a recreated temple-like studio. Vermilion on the foreheads of 64 ‘devis’ line the dome of the Colaba gallery. From wooden hand-painted boxes to Durga-Puja-inspired sculptures, terracottas to ceramics, ‘Lady with a bird’ to ‘Peace on Earth’, The Times of India writes that the show “ascendingly uncovers not only the well-travelled Bengali artist\’s fondness for the Egyptian Pharaoh but also her firmly-rooted Rabindranath-Tagore-soaking self”. 

Dhumal’s works of art were renowned for being strongly rooted in Indian culture and at the same time, effortlessly embracing the influences of her foreign travels. 

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Her daughter Radhika Dhumal reminisced to Mid-Day about her artist mother’s works and the lessons learnt under her tutelage, with five decades of practice of techniques and art she says are “rare in today’s art world”. She added, “There has not been a show like this for an artist who passed and the show was organised with NGMA, family, colleagues and students. The gallery has been set up to feel the emotion of her art.” 

The preview of the exhibition was graced by names like Brinda Miller, Nisha Jamvwal, Sudarshan Shetty, Pheroza Godrej, Vilas Shinde, PD Dhumal, Radhika Dhumal, Shashi Bansal, Kalpana Gandhi, Vinod Sharma, Madhu Sharma, Sanjana Shelat, Jayanti Rabadia, Madhusudan, Jain Kamal, Kuldeep Koregaonkar and others. 

Speaking to Abir Pothi, artist and honorary chairperson, Kala Ghoda, Brinda Miller said,

\”It was an emotional moment for a lot of people, but a happy one, too. Exhibiting her art at NGMA had been on Rini’s bucket list; she had been collecting and planning the show in her lifetime. She had told me the works were ready and she was just waiting for the dates. Unfortunately, it got delayed because of Covid and some other factors. Had that not happened, I am sure she would have seen this show.\”

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\”NGMA has gone out of its way to make it a good event. The display of the work is spectacular and I have myself not seen the place look this good before. It was very well thought-out and planned. The spectacle at the dome gallery, right on top, was just fantastic, lined with similar-sized works encircling the space. The lighting shone behind each painting, creating almost a halo. It was a very well-hung show indeed. Another special aspect was a sort of sitting room space, created by Rini’s son-in-law Rahul, an architect. Here, you entered an archway to see home-like seating with a video of Rini being interviewed playing alongside. Not artwork, but interestingly put together.\”

\”The show made everyone feel good, and didn’t come across as an event merely put forth due to her passing. When her daughter Radhika Dhumal spoke, she was very emotional. Several others spoke fondly about Rini as well — so many people loved her. Her loved ones were not expecting so many well-wishers to be there, but so many turned up! And it wasn’t just for the show, which will go on for three months. It was for Rini. The show’s opening is always very special for the artist. This was something like a condolence, but also certainly not a sad occasion.\”

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The show has been put on view from Saturday, May 21 onwards, at NGMA, Fort, Mumbai from 11 am to 6 pm on Tuesdays to Fridays, and from 11 am to 8 pm on weekends, remaining shut on Mondays and national holidays. 

(Abir Pothi holds precious one of the last few interviews granted by a doyenne of Indian art, which you can read here.)

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