Sheetal Gattani visits Mehlli Gobhai, the Mumbai based veteran
artist, at his studio and wonders at the interests that the artist has
been cherishing since his formative years to now.
Mehlli Gobhai one can surely say that his is an unprejudiced
mind, unconstrained by the rigid rules of harshly
defined likes and dislikes. A step into his working space (a space
intimate to him) and you
get to see a different world altogether, a world dotted with objects
which at the first sight seem to be slightly incongruent and
yet link well: be it a brilliant Chola sculpture, a bleached
dolphin's skull, dried coconuts, the
works which he has collected, books and
magazines or even a crow (a temporary resident) which he
saved from under a truck; somehow every thing/ object seems to find
its own space or corner and lends its distinct presence.
collected over the decades play a role of ever-present companions. As
you pan across the arranged books it is evident that Gobhai doesn't
show predilection for few subjects but has an interest in a variety of
topics: ranging from philosophy, arts, travel,
etc. Apart from books, Gobhai likes to sift through magazines, old and
Be it books or magazines, reading can never be a one
time process. To Gobhai, old issues of magazines continue to serve as
informal learning. These
act as catalysts, reviving nostalgia; magazines collected during his
formative years are chronicles of his days in
York. They remind him of
his old interests and how these have changed and grown over the years.
'It is strange that some works which didn't
appeal to me earlier suddenly seem to strike
a resonant chord.' Stepping back to the years in
Gobhai recalls building his
collection from the $2
The Strand Book Shop in New York was another source.
Considering Gobhai's reading, a conversation
with him invariably tends to branch out to
various directions: from rugby to science and geometry, from his
illustrations for children's books to abstract art. Running through
his collection you find: books by Carl
Jung, Wassily Kandinsky's 'Concerning the spiritual
in art', 'The ancient science of Geomancy' by Nigel Pennick,
'Islamic Cosmological Doctrines' by Seyyed Hossein Nasr,
'Zen and the art of Archery' by Eugen Herrigel, etc. And he wishes
he'd held on to an early edition of Max Muller's 'Sacred Books of
the East' which formed a fraction of his grandfather's collection.
Gobhai feels no need to look for a level of correlation between what
one reads. He sees inter-relations almost naturally. In the most
matter-of-fact manner, Gobhai sees how one thing leads to another and
everything being connected.
is a Mumbai based practicing artist.
Photo credit : Vrushali Dhage