c.c. And some of the shapes were quite large, physically.
g.d. I made two large versions out of wood to dominate the entrance of the museum where they were shown, it was important to stop people seeing them as street furniture and start thinking Indian.
c.c. One could see a whole lot of what you have done as being kind of oppositional. If I think about the art that was being reproduced in magazines and shown quite a lot when you were starting right through till now, then one might think of it as being large, often quite bombastic, frequently non figurative, simple, not refering to many other things, not concentrating on how it was made very much, often being made by people other than the artist. In that sense oppositional, certainly oppositional to the late minimal work that was the focus of the period, do you see it like that?
g.d. It’s true that I never felt part of any movement, I never knew of other people working in the same vein, there was with the marbling, there was a craft fraternity thing, particularly with the west coast Americans that I conciously avoided. I just got fascinated by things and fiddled away, influenced by the people close to me, building little messages in that only the other person would get. In the yantra show I tried to confront my interest in Indian art, I wrote the catalogue preface where I said that maybe the diagrams were more important than the meanings ascribed to them. They were more basic, that perhaps other cultures and times could attatch other meanings to them or perhaps they didn’t need any meanings or explanations at all. We could just experience that triangles point and circles are round.
c.c. How was this critically received?
g.d. “Why are you committing intellectual suicide, a highly educated fifty year old, you should be explaining things not going backwards”. Yet one of my desert island pictures would be that Japanese brush and ink drawings of a circle, a triangle and a square 55, I would like to get that far back.
c.c. And for it to be seen as meaningful by people from other cultures. Most of the people who would make observations about your work presumably come from a group whose picture of what is worth doing is at least to some extent based on the body of published and reproduced work which has a different set of criteria. The parameters for what’s worth doing for most of the artists who were in the Satchhi Sensation 56 show are so different from yours that they are bound to bring criticisms, just as the wide distribution of feminist writings in the 70’s and 80’s would make your women friends critical of making images in a certain way.
g.d. The penultimate piece in the show is a collective portrait of women that I have been influenced by in various ways.
c.c. But their identities are submerged.
g.d. They are spelt phonetically in Greek that’s all.
c.c. That’s pretty submerged for most of us. Who’s the first one, top left?
g.d. That’s me.
c.c. It’s structrally different from the rest.
g.d. The others are all depicted in the form of a Chinese jade disc, a bi, symbol of heaven, they are very mysterious, the earliest ones are found in Neolithic burial mounds placed in rows on top of bodies. They are beautifully proportioned, with delicate swirling decoration laboriously etched on the later ones. Jade is such a venerated material, warm, subtle, it cannot be carved, only laborously drilled. Their purpose is not clearly understood by archaeologists, yet they have fascinated people for thousands of years.
c.c. What’s the connection between your friends, Chinese jade discs, the moons of Jupiter and Greek myths?
g.d. I am. I always imagine that working with such basic stock references people will get the point, although in fact there are connections. Astronomical discoveries to this day are given names from Greek and Roman mythology. Io for example was chosen as a name for one of Jupiter’s moons because when its path was first noted in the 15th century it wasn’t exactly clear how it moved, so the story of Io, who erratically roamed the middle east after being bitten by a gadfly was the appropriate name.
55 By the Zen master Sengai. c.1830. Mitsu Art Gallery. Tokyo Japan.
56 1996. Royal Academy, London.