6 April - 15 May 2024

Gulammohammed Sheikh is an artist, a writer, and a historian all rolled into one. These three aspects have had different origins but have entered into a fruitful conversation over the years and have jointly shaped his work. The four paintings he contributed to the exhibition Place for People (1981) marked the first fruition of this conversation. In them, he freely mixed elements drawn from memory, immediate surroundings and world art to create images that opened up passages between the personal and the social, the present and the past, the near and the distant. With it, his paintings became, like the world he lived in, a palimpsest of many temporalities and cultures that speak to us in multiple tongues.

Since then, all-embracing motifs like the tree of life and map of the world with a history spread across several cultures; formats like the accordion book and the kaavad that allow multiple open-ended readings; and figures like Kabir and Gandhi, who embraced the worldly and spiritual with natural ease and strove to bring communities together have become symbols, means and fellow travellers in Sheikh's work. That the world hurtles from one crisis to another compels him to turn his artistic practice into an open-ended endeavour at remaking the world as a place of hope and coming together, working against all odds.

The present exhibition, with its imposing ark with kindred artists and poets and precious cargo of cultural memories negotiating turbulent waves, a large map of our troubled world with St. Francis and Kabir flanking it like guardian saints, its double-faced panels with images offering countervailing visions, and small kaavads that open up the world and the city for intimate scrutiny is the latest chapter in this ongoing endeavour.

-R. Siva Kumar