The great artistic impulse of Tyeb Mehta exploded from 1981. His human figures question the meaning of life.
The artist is aware of the trends in international modern art. His purpose is figurative but he admires the pure colors of Barnett Newman and the details of his drawing may refer to the simple compositions by Mondrian.
The figures by Mehta are androgynous, or more precisely asexual even when they are naked. He wanted it because his actual message is elsewhere. The real issue is discomfort and suffering, translated through physical abnormalities, splitting limbs, merging figures who lose their proper identity.
Dated 1981, a figure in two colors with three arms is one of the earliest examples of this new art by Mehta. This oil on canvas, 150 x 120 cm, was sold for Rs 7.1 crore including premium by Saffronart on September 21, 2011.
The painting in the next sale is an oil on canvas 175 x 119 cm dated 1982. The female figure looks almost normal excepted for her three breasts and for the doubling of her greeting hand. It is a very good example of Mehta's deliberately naive period of relearning.
Two years later, Mehta's artistic residence in Santiniketan will revolutionize his art. He shall appropriate the use of bright colors to enhance his message, and know how to exploit the link between his modern philosophy and the roots of Indian mythology.