Amin Jaffer, art critic, Artists Against Communalism, Christie's, falling bird, Falling Figure, figurative scene, inspiration behind painting, Mehta, Nancy Adajania, original meaning, Partition Riots, Shivaji Park, Tyeb Mehta, Untitled (Falling Figure)
Untitled (Falling Figure)
Tyeb Mehta (1925-2009)
Signed and dated ‘Tyeb 92’ (lower right); acrylic on canvas
Size: 303.2 x 303.5 centimetres (119 x 119 inches)
Estimated price: $600,000-800,000
Tyeb Mehta’s (1925-2009) monumental work Untitled (Falling Figure), painted in 1992, is historically significant, representing an exceptional moment of synergy between his artistic and social concerns.
Mehta’s figurative scene is born from a traumatic experience in his youth, when he witnessed the violent death of a man during the Partition Riots of 1947. In conversation with art critic Nancy Adajania, Mehta stated, “Violence, sacred or otherwise, is part of my memory and emotions. Even now it is occurring around us. I [first] painted the Falling Figure in 1968 because I was looking for an equally powerful image of the trussed bull. That in turn led me to the image of the falling bird – a contradiction because birds don’t fall, they fly.”
In 1992, this image was the central backdrop for the Artists Against Communalism 12 hour cultural sit-in in Bombay on March 14, where it became the event’s didactic icon. At that very moment, at Shivaji Park, Mehta’s life-long preoccupation could be seen to cyclically culminate as his original meaning and inspiration behind his painting poignantly aligned with its use.
First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on September 16, 2012.