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Jyoti Bhatt

Indian Modern Artist
Born 1934, Bhavnagar, Gujarat, India
Lives and works in Baroda, India

As a painter and printmaker, Bhatt drew his imagery from traditional Indian folk art. Later, the desire to photograph and document India's culture lured him. The black and white photographs that he captured through his lens are mute spectators of the art forms that are almost extinct. Working with a vast variety of mediums, his graphic prints have garnered him the most attention.

Education

1985

Learnt basics of Holography, UK

1966

Learnt Printmaking, Pratt Institute and Pratt Graphic Art Centre, New York under Fulbright & John D Rockfeller II Grants specializing in Graphics

1962

Academia Di Belle Arti, Naples, Italy under Italian Government Scholarship

1956

Studied Painting and Printmaking, Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda

1953

Learnt Mural and Fresco Painting, Vanasthali Vidyapith, Rajasthan

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LIFE AND WORK

UNDERSTANDING Jyoti Bhatt

From cubist influence, his imagery moved to traditional folk designs

In the 1950s, Bhatt began his artistic career as a painter and printmaker. He moved from his early works that reflected cubist influence to a gleeful and densely pictured world that often drew its imagery from traditional Indian folk designs. His etchings, intaglios and screen prints comprised of symbols that stem from Indian culture – the peacock, the lotus, the parrot, stylized Indian gods and goddesses, and endless variations on tribal and village designs.

As an artist his goal was to preserve and to seek inspiration from the rapidly disappearing folk art traditions of the rural India. He worked as a painter still late 1960s and even taught at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Baroda before he turned to photography.

Jyoti Bhatt, Women From Saurashtra, 1958, oil and acrylic on board, 24.02 x 20.20”

Bhatt's repertoire of images spills across mediums

He has worked in a variety of mediums, including oils and watercolours. However, it is his prints that are most associated with him. Bhatt explains that his paintings did not have “painterly quality”, but were more graphic. With his etchings, intaglios and screen prints he explored graphic and prints.

In 1970s, Bhatt took photographs of Gujarati folk art. Though his explorations into village and tribal designs influenced the motifs he used in his printmaking, he considers his documenting photographs to be an art form in itself. Recently, he's found his interest in digital printing and holography.

Jyoti Bhatt, Faces in silver, 1968, oil and wood relief, 44.88 x 44.88”

He documented living art in rural homes

In 1967, Bhatt was asked by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Mumbai to document Gujarat's folk art for a project. That's when his journey as a photographer started. The idea was to document their lifestyles before they get lost forever.

By the 1970s, the desire to photograph and document India's culture had already captivated him. Since then, he has concentrated on capturing living art in rural homes that have been increasingly disappearing because of modern, consumerist lifestyles. His camera replaced his sketchbook and he captured everything including intricately carved floors and doors, pots, utensils, walls, havelis, bandhani and other Kutch crafts, traditionally tattooed bodies, embroidery and painted temples on his travel to villages in Gujarat and other states.

Jyoti Bhatt, An old woman guarding a newly diagrammed rangoli, Rajasthan, 1980, modern silver gelatin print

His direct and simply composed photographs have become valued on their own merit

To Bhatt, taking photographs has not only been about documenting the folk and tribal art of the villages, for they might become extinct; he also found the photo-documentation work equally creative. He considers his documentary photographs to be an art form.

His photography is considered significant for he's captured a very important slice of history through his lens but what's striking in his photographs is the way they are composed, giving great attention to background details and surroundings. For instance, in A boy with a bicycle in Dhordo, Gujarat, how the little boy is seen riding against an ornamentally hand painted wall, while offering a rare insight into the designs of the houses of those times.

Jyoti Bhatt, A boy with a bicycle in Dhordo, Gujarat, 1970, modern silver gelatin print

Bibliography