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In his works, Dattatraya Apte has established certain standards for a constructive art which have had and continue to have a profound effect throughout.  They combine with and support inspiration of teachers like K. G. Subramanyan, Jyoti Bhatt and Jeram Patel, for the art of structural correspondences with the ideals and standards of modern idioms, Eclecticism being an attitude in art that permits a free choice and combination of styles; exoticism implies that these styles are borrowed from a culture other than one's own.  In Apte's case, the art of mapping came subconsciously while studying painting and sharing room with an architect cousin in Pune.  There is perhaps an ethical distinction between the two procedures – to borrow from a remote source does not seem to have the same implication of plagiarism as borrowing from a contemporary source.  If the borrowed style is thoroughly assimilated, its source has little significance. 

          Apte is interested in the intrinsic nature of different topographies; of mountains and plains, cities and open fields.  But unlike architects he is drawn not to the physical manifestations of these landscapes, but to the magnetic energy zones that flow below the surface of the earth.  He is fascinated by these high frequency fields which remain invisible to our vision, but which profoundly affect the sites and those who live, construct and settle in these zones. 

          For over seventeen years Apte has been searching out and locating regions of high and positive currents of energy, and subterranean water streams Submerged (1999) of intense magnetic power.  These ‘interventions' are sometimes small and at times on a massive scale, but they suffice to awaken our response to the intense gravitational pull, and the mysterious, compelling character of such places. 

          Apte claims that he is ‘building a bridge' between old indigenous knowledge and new technological methods.  His locations are literally site specific!  Lotus Pond & Bridge (1999) & Piano Bridge (1999).  He is locating the situation of invisible magnetic energies, affirming an ancient science which exists in many cultures.  He asserts, “I am not dealing with artificial structures but with the energies of Nature”. 

          The quality of the earth determines the quality of the landscape, contributing to construct the respective landscapes.  In addition, the earth provides the basis for the production of colours for his work, with which he develops his image.  In mysticism, too, the earth is assigned a particular significance: earth is primary material, conveyor of energy; earth becomes beginning and end. 

          Apte moves through landscapes and in the process experiences him as part of the landscape.  He moves across the earth and is borne up by it.  He attempts to experience the nature with all the senses, to comprehend it through observation and to feel it physically.  He applies the earth with his hands, and the painterly gesture develops from a movement that comes from the body – a movement that derives from the memory of his movement through the nature, from the aura of the landscape as he experienced it.  He wants to bring this aura to light through earth itself, not wanting to create a reproduction but rather a kind of microcosmic intensification of it.  The sand of the desert, for example, has different qualities and energies than the stone of a volcanic island or cities.  At this meditative level he seeks to comprehend the essence and power of mother-nature. 

          Apte's works are proto-typical or ideal form of architecture, with no aesthetic justification as a separate art.  The mind or consciousness of man's progresses, however slowly, by the conquest reality, by which we mean the invention of new images that represent the nature of reality, as present in the consciousness of the artist.  In that sense, science and art are parallel activities, the one advancing from empirical observations to new and ever more comprehensive concepts, hypotheses about the nature of the physical world, the other advancing from intuitive apprehensions of the nature of the same physical world to new and ever more exact images representing such intuitive apprehensions.  The images of the artist are concrete – that is to say, material constructions project the mental image as icons of universal significance.


Abhijeet Gondkar

October 2005, Mumbai


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