Herald: A peek into the Sonata of Solitude

A peek into the Sonata of Solitude

22 Apr 2016 07:04am IST
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22 Apr 2016 07:04am IST
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Legendary artist VS Gaitonde (1924-2001) originally from Goa, set a new record for the highest selling Indian work in modern and contemporary art when his untitled oil painting fetched Rs 29.3 crore at Christie’s India auction on December 15, 2015. To give a glimpse into the life of this late modern artist, Jesal Thacker, founder of Bodhana, and art scholar Meera Menezes, have released the biography, ‘Vasudeo Santu Gaitonde — Sonata of Solitude’

‘Vasudeo Santu Gaitonde — Sonata of Solitude’, is

a book authored by Meera Menezes, researched by

Jesal Thacker and published by Bodhana Arts and

Research Foundation on the artist who was known

as Gai to his friends in the world of art. However,

very little was known about this legendary record

setting artist.

HERALD CAFÉ: V S Gaitonde’s works are an

inspiration for artists in India. Can you tell us about

the book, ‘Vasudeo Santu Gaitonde – Sonata of


Jesal Thacker: This book, which is the first in the

series of three books and a documentary, emerges

as a biography of the modern master Gaitonde by

eminent art scholar and author Meera Menezes.

‘Vasudeo Gaitonde — The Man and the Myth’, the

research is presented as the praxis of his life. Stories

known and unknown since his childhood to the

period of his formative years in J J (School of Art),

through his struggles to keep up expenses as well

as ambitions until leaving his family to permanently

settle in Delhi are well addressed and narrated

here. Meera, through her biography, effaces the

existing myths about the artist and successfully

attempts to produce a factual document on his life

and journey, keeping the emotive anecdotes at bay

while vehemently affirming the facts. The document

presents a history rather than a general story. Meera

Menezes has very deftly shaped a story from the

magnanimous archives we gathered together. The

narrative arc she has laid out in the following pages

from end to end reflects the unique persona of

Gaitonde — the Man and the Myth.

HC: Can you elaborate on his background with

regard to Goa?

JT: Gaitonde’s father belonged to the native place

of Uskai in Mapusa while his mother belonged to

Bicholim. The mural painting created on the walls of

Saraswati temple in Uskai influenced young Vasudeo

Gaitonde. The family shifted to Mumbai in 1929.

Affectionately referred to as ‘Bal’ by the rest of his

family, Vasudeo was the only boy wedged between

two older sisters, Manik and Hira, and two younger

sisters, Vijaya and Kishori.

HC: How valuable were the inputs by V S Gaitonde’s

sister, Kishori Das, since he had broken ties with his

family in Goa?

JT: There is a 20-year age-difference between

Kishori Das and Gaitonde. Gaitonde left for Delhi,

leaving his family and friends in Mumbai, in 1971.

However, Kishori still had fond memories of her

brother and her inputs have been very valuable,

especially since it gives an insight into the formative

years of the artist and also a deep insight into the

relations he had with his father. What particularly

interested me was how both father and son were

strong headed and they both had similar characters.

At the Gaitonde household, his father Santu’s word

was law. None of the other family members had

any say in the decisions that were made, and the

atmosphere at home could be suffocating in its

tyranny. When he was away, the family members

broke free from the shackles of paternal discipline

and the house would be filled with peals of laughter,

songs, dances and skits. However, as soon as the

patriarch returned from work, silence descended

and the atmosphere retained its repressive weight.

HC: What was the struggle to research for this


Meera Menezes: Ever since I first set my eyes on

Gaitonde’s paintings, I was keen to know more about

him. In a scene dominated by figurative work, here

was a man who was ploughing a lonely furrow of

abstraction. I had heard that he was a recluse and did

not meet anyone but I was determined to interview

him. As luck would have it, he agreed to meet me in

1997 for one of those rare interviews. Then in 2010,

Jesal Thacker approached me to write a book on

him, since she was equally passionate about his life

and work. We were like kindred spirits in this project

and worked together to bring this book to fruition.

JT: It was during my college years at JJ School

when I came across a painting in a catalogue that

drove my interest towards Vasudeo Gaitonde and

his paintings. I began to probe deeper as it was a

project assigned to us — to research on any abstract

artist. As my interest grew deeper in abstraction, my

knowledge of Gaitonde increased. I came across a

monograph by Dnyaneshwar Nadkarni on Vasudeo

Gaitonde by Lalit Kala Akademi that further triggered

my research into his life and art.

HC: V S Gaitonde is celebrated as one of India’s

highest selling artists internationally. What is the

target audience you are looking at for this book?

JT: The purpose of the book is educative as it serves

as history of an artist who was a part in pioneering

modernism in art in India. The target is not specific,

as it would be an element of interest to all those who

understand Gaitonde’s non-objective art and his

philosophy of life. We aim to reach out to all those

interested in art – students, collectors, critics and all

those who believe in the synchronicity art has to life

and spirituality.

HC: Will the book be available in bookstores in


JT: Yes it will. I am planning a book release in Goa

and also releasing a similar book on Gaitonde in the

Konkani. It is now available online on the Bodhana

website (www.bodhana.org).
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