Artist Baba Anand has combined his twin passions—for tarot cards and for one of the 20th century’s most well-known and eccentric artists, Salvador Dali—to present an unusual and self-indulgent show of his works. Of course, it is self-consciously self-indulgent.
Late in his life, the flamboyant Spanish master had actually created a set of tarot cards, and Anand happened to be gifted one such elaborately and luxuriously produced set (he speculates that Dali might have made the tarot artworks late in his life only to make money to sustain his high-expense lifestyle). The deck has inspired his own set of works—22 gaudy mixed-media tarot card recreations, which are essentially paintings liberally embellished with glitter, sequins, embroidery and 24 carat gold leafing (according to the artist’s note).
The walls and floors of the large and spacious spaces at the Religare arts.i gallery have been made dark and velvety—the gallery space is very dim and yellow lights are trained upon the works of art so that they bounce off the glitter and sparkle to heightened effect against the dark-matt backdrop. There are also some pieces of similarly gaudy sculpture and installations—an inverted, suspended, glitter-covered elephant; golden legs and hands emerging out of frames; a lip-shaped couch—which can best be viewed as complementing the tarot paintings hanging on the walls, and adding to the overall atmosphere of glitz and weirdness.
And that is a key point of difference between Anand and the master he is paying homage to with his tarots—Dali’s melting clocks were wacky, and sublimely so; Anand’s creations done 80 years later are nearly not wacky enough and end up being just weird. That is an inherent—and perhaps inevitable—risk when you are trying to pay homage to the master by channelling the spirit of his art through your own artworks. It would be hard not to be derivative.
Anand, admittedly, is not trying to match Dali—he seems to be aware of what he is doing and so focuses on gilding his artworks in interesting and fun ways. The Major Arcana is definitely fun and interesting—we are distracted by the shiny surface, and feeling cossetted in the dark, velvety space, don’t feel the desire to probe any further. We are just happy to soak in the atmosphere.
The Major Arcana: A Fool’s Journey is on till 17 May at the Religare arts.i gallery at 7, Atmaram Mansion, Level One, Scindia House, Kasturba Gandhi Marg, Connaught Place, New Delhi 110001. Click here for details