black, white and grays

windows within viewing panes; a hole in the wall blocked by another wall - deceptive vistas, dead-end views

tessellations: dark brick walls and diamond patterned floors

a whistle, a solitary bowl, a matchstick and pole

empty • quiet• infinite

zones of possibility



Dilip’s art is in its absolute form an endeavor to undermine the nothingness of the blank flat canvas, to peel away at the surface of a sheet of paper by sculpting space within space. Dilip trained as a sculptor at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayajiirao University in Vadodara, Gujarat and though he found his medium of choice, drawing and photography later, this formal training is obvious in the way he manipulates space and its relationship with mass. Space in its purest form is ‘nothing’ but not in the sense of being limiting (i.e. what’s there? Nothing! Such a limiting response closing all avenues of further investigation) but in the exact opposite, in the range of possibilities it allows. These possibilities become present when the volume of space is thrown in sharp contrast against a definite and defined mass.

Dilip creates depth and exposes avenues for the imagination by opening a door here and a window there, by playing with perspective - how endless seems the room with the receding black and white floor pattern. He completely disregards the laws of architecture and thus a window opens as a trapdoor in what we assume to be the floor of the room and so perhaps these aren’t doors and windows as much as portals, with all the accompanying associations of parallel dimensions and secret openings to hidden places. Often Dilip blocks an opening with a solid brick wall; that’s two levels visible with a third level imagined for if there is a brick wall then there has to be something behind it, either another room or the outside, the spatial depth of which we know to be immeasurable. Blockage becomes a clever device for suggesting more not less, openings not closures.

Spaces are what Dilip creates, spaces within spaces, fields within visual fields by cleverly manipulating perspective and light and shade. Thus the illusion in Dilip’s craft is easily identified. The allusions less so since they rely on no prior or present narrative. The artist has described the motivation for his drawings, “the whole concept of my work is negative…where I have been a failure, depressed, weak, emotional, suppressed, alone. These are my psychological concerns which force my expression and these terms create dark/ silent visuals for me…” [1] Having been provided by the clue as to their inspiration, we must then deliberate on the nature of the images and their symbolism and thus perhaps examine, to borrow a phrase from Rudolf Arnheim, a psychology of [Dilip’s] art. [2]

Arnheim has written that, ‘Every visual pattern - be it that of a painting, a building, an ornament, a chair - can be considered a proposition which, more or less, successfully, makes a declaration about the nature of human existence.’[3] Could we use this statement to read and, most pertinently, experience Dilip’s drawings? I don’t mean to draw up a literal list that correlates image to a thought or feeling. That would be a limiting exercise and would go against the grain of what I am attempting to propose about this artists’ work, that he creates spaces that arise from his interactions and emotions but which are hospitable planes which the viewer can inhabit with his/ her own private thoughts. I have asked previously of Dilip’s work and I feel the questions remain relevant in this solo exhibition, ‘how will our perception of ourselves change, even if for the briefest moment, in this highly constructed room? …will it change and/ or will we recognize this fleeting experience?’ [4]

I do not know what motivated Dilip to draw a bowl in a room but in that bowl I can place a kernel of my misgivings or anxiety and turn away profoundly touched by this private moment between me and the painted surface. Or I can travel the length of the room with the patterned floor until I have achieved ecstasy. In the room with the pole and brick I can vent my anger. I can make the spaces my own as can every other person who encounters them. And I can do all this silently and privately without fear of encroachment on another’s experience or vision. We are allowed and encouraged to emotionally inhabit Dilip’s work without the stress of having to decode the symbolism. Prior knowledge is not a pre-requisite, which is such a liberating experience!


Artists’ Practice: Archives and Studies

Two works in the exhibition, a photographic installation and a collection of small paintings, support the drawings on paper.

The former functions as Dilip’s visual archive. His practice in many ways begins with the personal photograph of whatever may catch his eye. He photographs anything from cracks in walls to corners of buildings, grids, mesh windows and brick walls and a collection of these were displayed in the gallery corner as though hung in a dark room off nylon threads using clips, recently developed and full of prospect. He is not a photographer and so these must be seen as blueprints. This archive is not a record of places but of ethos since the captured visual fragments do not piecemeal create a narrative or location but function along the lines of snatches of an experience, glimpsed and partially remembered. It is an archive of chance encounters built into a permanent collection of personal interactions. It is as Jacques Derrida has written in Archive Fever that the archive only contains a trace of what happened not the thing itself.

He has also written that as much as an archive points to the past, it ‘should call into question the coming of the future’. He writes, “It is a question of the future, the question of the future itself, the question of a response, of a promise and of a responsibility for tomorrow. The archive: if we want to know what that will have meant, we will only know in times to come” [5] And so we are left with the promise of what else this personal archive of partial imagery will elicit from the artist and thus from us the audience.

The small format watercolors are akin to artists’ studies. We rarely get to see this side of an artists’ practice nowadays and therefore I am consciously separating it from the artists’ archive because it is a unique and separate view that Dilip is providing into his praxis. Through art history it has been the standard practice of artists to make a host of preparatory drawings for their paintings (here we see a reversal, paintings as studies for complex drawings). Such studies enable us to see the artist’s mind at work, and to understand the processes involved in creating an artwork.Italsoshowsvariationsofathemeexploredbytheartistbeforearrivingat the final work and is thus an intriguing glimpse into so private an exercise.


The mind, reaching far beyond the stimuli received by the eyes directly and momentarily, operates with the vast range of imagery available through memory and organizes a total lifetime’s experience into a system of visual concepts. The thought mechanisms by which the mind manipulates these concepts operate in direct perception, but also in the interaction between direct perception and stored experience, as well as in the imagination of the artist, the scientist…

Rudolf Arnheim, Visual Perception,1969

Dilip describes himself as a ‘visual scientist’. [6] Arnheim has written extensively on the approximation between science and the visual arts in that they are both creative endeavors and depend on imagination, observation, perception and experimentation. Both fields require inventiveness. [7] The phenomena and procedures of science and technology are visual, analogical and thematic. Based on these characteristics, the visual core of science can be described in terms of 'master images' in the content of science, and 'visual processes' in the practice of science. A visual scientist is someone who studies the core properties of visual perception i.e. depth, blurring, textures etc. and in that sense Dilip is true in his self-description.

He sculpts in two dimension and thus sculpts the impossible creating renditions of visual illusions. It is in many ways a descendent of the visual tricks explored by M.C. Escher whose impossible constructions feature explorations of infinity and tessellation. Escher emphasized the importance of dimensionality and described himself as “irritated” by flat shapes: “I make them come out of the plane.” Like Escher Dilip is not a mathematician but he intuitively employs the principles of the discipline. Escher created foremost from the images in his mind and Dilip does much the same, by his own admission. But unlike Escher he roams the physical world in search of his visual vocabulary, as evidenced from his photographic archive. And finally to sum up in Escher’s own words, [8] which relate unerringly to Dilip’s complex art unique in the current landscape of the country;

When an element of plane division suggests to me the form of an animal, I immediately think of a volume. The "flat shape" irritates me - I feel as if I were shouting to my figures, "You are too fictitious for me; you just lie there static and frozen together; do something, come out of there and show me what you are capable of!" So I make them come out of the plane. But do they really do that? On the contrary, I am deliberately inconsistent, suggesting plasticity in the plane by means of light and shadow.

Deeksha Nath

August 2010

[1] Dilip Chobisa artist statement

[2] Arnheim, R. Towards a psychology of art. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1966

[3] Arnheim, R Visual Perception. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969. pg. 296

[4] Essay in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition Immersions, curated by me at Anant Art Gallery, 2009.

[5] Derrida, J. Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. Eric Prenowitz (trans.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press edition, 1996. pg. 36

[6] Essay in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition Immersions, curated by me at Anant Art Gallery, 2009.

[7] Derrida, J. Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. Eric Prenowitz (trans.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press edition, 1996. pg. 36

[8] See endnotes ii and iii and also Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1974

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