The Wall Street Journal interviewed Indian artist Jatin Das about his collection of fans:
Few of his countrymen, he observes, share his regard for traditional crafts. “Indians are systematically destroying their heirlooms, their treasures and their traditions,” says Mr. Das, whose home state is famous for its temple carvings and bright cloth appliqué wall hangings. “They are going for the plastic culture, the synthetic culture. They want to be modern in a vulgar way.”
Mr. Das has his own interpretation of modernism. Over the course of his career, his large oil canvases have featured muscular human figures – limbs akimbo, devoid of any ornamentation that one might expect from a handicraft aficionado. The backgrounds remain abstract, with shifting fields of color and confident lines that define the composition. Such works first brought him acclaim in the 1960s and ’70s, and they continue to win him admirers today. In his most recent solo show in India, “Earth Bodies,” held in May at the India Habitat Centre Visual Arts Gallery in New Delhi, his palette favored burnt sienna, dark green and maroon.
Overseas, his work has been auctioned in recent years at Bonham’s in London, Christie’s in New York and Versailles Enchères Perrin-Royere-Lajeunesse in France. This month Mr. Das will reside at the Chelsea Arts Club in London, which has mounted an exhibition of his work that will run through August. And in September, the painter will travel to San Francisco to attend the opening of his show at the Artists Alley Gallery.
I have fans from Africa, China, Japan, Egypt, Korea and Southeast Asia. I also have a fan from Sweden, which they use for fanning the cold.
How big is your collection now?
What started as a random collection became a subject for systematic study, research and documentation. In addition to the 6,500 fans in storage next to my (New Delhi) studio, I have about 2,000 paintings and photographs of fans. I (have) made 10 documentary films on fan-making with my wife and daughter. I’ve got poems on fans. I became a member of The Fan Circle International in the U.K. (an organization of fan collectors).
Which are your most treasured fans?
Sometimes a very simple fan can be very beautiful. One favorite is a two-rupee (about U.S. 42 cents) fan made from a waterborne grass in Haryana (a northern state that borders the city of New Delhi). I also have favorites that are worth 100,000 or 200,000 Indian rupees (about $2,050 to $4,100), with handles made of silver, ivory or lacquer. There are also pure silver and gold threaded fans from the (Indian) royal families.
The Collector: Jatin Das (Wall Street Journal)