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Sunil Gawde: Minimal Approach, Maximum Impact

by Minhazz Majumdar



Untitled, 2005. Metal framework, wood, acrylic mirror, foam, rubber-coated cloth, and mechanized motor, 66 x 174 x 9 in. From "Blind Bulb, etc."

“Blind Bulb etc.”: the title of the show is intriguing, perplexing. Perhaps, just as the artist intended. It makes one contemplate the strange juxtaposition of words, wondering what it denotes. Perhaps, just as the artist wished.

Sunil Gawde is the artist. A painter, sculptor, or installation artist—it does not matter what you call him as long as he is acknowledged as an artist. Ever since he can remember, even as a young child of five, he had always wanted to be an artist. Born into a middle-class Indian family in Mumbai in 1960, Gawde was not initially encouraged by his family, particularly his father, to take to art. However, his teachers, recognizing his talents, always supported him. He went on to complete training in fine arts at the prestigious Sir J.J. School of Art in Mumbai.

It was not all smooth sailing. In 1980, just 20 years old, he abruptly left home. Despite being an award-winning student all his life, due to vested interests in the art school, he barely managed to scrape through his final examinations. Utterly dejected, he decided to renounce the world, and with just 80 rupees (less than two dollars) in his pocket and nothing else, he took off on a journey by foot to the shrine of Vithoba at Pandharpur, a major pilgrimage site. Walking alone or sometimes with a group of varkaris (devotees), he spent two months on the road, a time he claims was “truly a revelation. It proved to be the foundation of my life, for I retreated into myself and absorbed the knowledge one gains from being without any attachments.” He met a wise man who told him that he needed to go back because he had not achieved real detachment but had left out of frustration. He was also told that there was a lot left for him to achieve in life.

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