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Dilip Chobisa’s engagement with ideas of space and belonging

Through his works, the Baroda-based artist questions the ideas of social beliefs and their relationship with our built surroundings

Dilip Chobisa's love for graphite led him to explore a monochromatic palette in his practice.
Dilip Chobisa's love for graphite led him to explore a monochromatic palette in his practice.

Could a visual of a space, an imagined room, or an illusionary yard, evoke emotions? Would surrealistic architecture be unnerving if it did not follow ‘mathematical principles’? Visual artist Dilip Chobisa attempts to answer these questions through his art practice.

Chobisa grew up in a middle-class, nuclear family. His father had a transferable job, as a result of which he moved cities often, uprooting and settling down in new homes. His engagement with the ideas of space and belonging emerged organically from this. At school, lessons in art were limited. “While I was studying in school in a small town, Salumber in Rajasthan, I was introduced to art by way of calligraphy,” he reminisces.

He was also intrigued with murals, especially the ones created for wedding celebrations. Seeing his creativity and interest, Chobisa's teachers encouraged him to pursue a career in the arts. Much later, when it was time for higher studies, he ended up ‘casually’ (and not consciously) applying for a bachelor’s programme at The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. Chobisa says, “I am an introvert by nature, almost socially anxious. So, making art an independent pursuit became my source of happiness.”

He began his explorations with paper and graphite, as the material was inexpensive and also easily available. His early work featured abstract forms that he made in the confines of his room. “I was emotionally invested in my work and, I guess, it became my way of self-discovery,” he adds. Doors and windows, surfaces and floor patterns became significant to his work, and the study of manmade spaces his lifelong vocation.

'Adjoining Dialogues' by Dilip Chobisa
'Adjoining Dialogues' by Dilip Chobisa

Through his works, Chobisa questions the ideas of social beliefs and their relationship with elements in our built surroundings. His works never refer to an actual existing place in its entirety, and neither are the works created with mathematical precession. “…Constructed structure has so much at play through light and shadow, perspectives and angles. Though I am not a trained architect, these elements are magical for me. For others it may be an illusion, but for me it is a deep personal process of layering motifs and components, eventually developing into my dream-space—one that has a story to tell,” he explains.

Chobisa confesses that he has developed the style by himself and the very process of making art is full of errors and unpredicted results. “What you see is not planned work. There is randomness and happenstance. over time a composed frame emerges. There is an element of surprise till it reveals itself even to me,” he adds.

When one enquires of his understanding of photography as a medium, he says that the photographic image is a time-bound documentation, with little room for error. “To make my work, I rely on my memory. I render what I recollect, add to it, and rework it. That is a very spontaneous and impulsive.” And rightly so as his works become imagined spaces rather than ‘documenting’ anything that exists.

He enjoys the meditative nature of the creative process. Graphite on paper renders a monochromatic palette. “Adopting a medium is a challenge if it does not align with the creator’s attitude and approach,” says Chobisa. “The visual as seen in my work could be photographic because it looks like that, but it is not. And that is exactly what my expression is all about. I intentionally choose to create textures and patterns, depth and voids. I introduce elements from my imagination. They are neither illustrative in nature, nor real.” For him, the lack of colour in his work was not a conscious decision. It was the love for graphite that led to the monochrome. But in hindsight, he feels that colour is destructive. It takes away from the form itself, adding an unintended layer to be interpreted. Further, ‘black-and-white’ instantly takes the viewer to the era gone by. This distinct feeling of being in a flashback contributes to his surrealistic expression of emotion and memory, silence and mystery.

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