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    Gieve Patel

    Map Academy

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    A poet, playwright and figurative painter, as well as a practising physician, Gieve Patel was a self-taught artist whose work was largely focused on urban life and environmental conservation.

    Patel shifted his attention to the visual medium after the publication of his third book, in 1991, creating figurative paintings featuring a central protagonist. Deriving from the everyday urban landscape of Mumbai, his works often feature the working class and other marginalised sections of urban society. While he rarely attached a specific identity to any of these characters, he painted the figures in a way that suggested the pain and suffering caused by the inequalities of urban life in India.

    In his series Looking into a Well: Full Moon, completed in 2001, Patel eliminated the human figure altogether, instead depicting the changing light and textures of the surface of water in the shallow wells of south Gujarat that he came across during his childhood visits to the region. Patel has also made sculptures and charcoal drawings, including a series inspired by the silent-era black-and-white film The Passion of Joan of Arc. His poetry collections include How Do You Withstand, Body (1976) and Mirrored, Mirroring (1991). He has also published three plays.

    His paintings were first exhibited in 1966 at the Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, the same year as the publication of his first book, Poems. Since then, he exhibited widely, with shows at Shridharani Gallery, New Delhi (1966); Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai (1975); Art Heritage, New Delhi (1979); Peabody Essex Museum, Massachusetts (2007); the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi (2016); and Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Mumbai (2017). Patel was awarded the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship in 1984; the Rockefeller Fellowship in 1992; and was the CR Parekh Writer-in-Residence at the University of Pennsylvania in 2003.

    Patel died in November 2023 in Pune.


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