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                     The need to create is essentially driven from an inner urge for a search; a journey that one undertakes, with a sense of commitment to one's own life and aspirations.  It is often simpler to look back in retrospect and trace the footsteps that one has traversed, both in one's own context, and in the context of a close associate, only if there are recallable lingering images and memories of the past.  My recollections of Dattatraya Apte as a friend and contemporary, travel back to our days at the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University of Baroda, where both of us were struggling to establish our own métier.  The environment that the institution, of those years generated, was that of immense exposure, freedom, and self discipline which provided scope for “each seed to grow to be a tree”, maintaining its personalized approach and identity.  There was ample scope for interaction and criticism from stalwarts like K.G. Subramanyam, Jeram Patel and Jyoti Bhatt, among others which provided fertile ground for growth. 

          I vividly recall a set of wood-block prints in progression during 1979 based on the Automobiles.  The hard, blackened wood-block slowly transforming into pulsating images, searching for the feeling of the animate in the inanimate.  This series manifests itself into a theme, where Apte experimented with other print-making media like Lithography, Etching and Engraving surging to discover the personification of the inner character and innate personality of these objects of ‘utility'. 

          The opportunity of working and managing a professional silk screen studio at Baroda provided an opportunity to experiment and realize the various possibilities and insights of the medium, resulting in a series of multi-layered perceptive reflections of the ‘dazzling urban'.  It was immediately followed by another captivating series of the ruins of Delhi.  This thematic and pictorial contrast, provided scope for an inner search, exploiting images ‘retained in the mind', often working directly with the glue and exploring the qualities of the tactile world'. 

          The birth of his son brought him close to the nuances of the innocence, the myriad reflections of communion with nature from a standpoint that he had long outgrown generated a series of Mezzotins exploiting the contemplative and the sensuous. 

Ideas can be hypothetical and they need to be governed by their own logic to formulate their own meaning.  Dattatraya's present preoccupations are a progression of the earlier concerns, manifesting and formalizing themselves into a newer format with a sense of freedom, both of Image and material.   The quazi print-relief images exploiting the tactile bring about a coherence interms of concept, material, dimentionality and surface quality.  They appear as contructions in pulp revealing the subtilities of the experiences of printmaking ‘in a perceptive mould'.  They are prints that cast an ‘evocative shadow', and, in colour; perhaps the flight of imagination of the artist believes in synthesis and not the synthetic; searching and working towards a newer language for his creative endeavours.  The orchertrization of space form and colour reveals a certain fluidity; forms in relief blend with those that are on the surface and colour often creating intermingily relief and flat surfaces.  The attitude aptly surmises “The Idea is not the illustration but the illustration is the Idea” as said by Paul Klee and the Journey continues.

Rajeev Lochan 

Xth Triennale India 2001

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