Born in Jharkand in 1973, painter Raju Patel produces powerful expressions of his experience of disability. He received his diploma (2000) and post-diploma (2002) in painting from Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda. In the time since then he has explored his experience of India’s social, cultural, and physical landscape as a disabled artist. He has held two solo exhibitions: “Stand By Me” at Knots Art Space in Baroda (2016) and “Renitent Bodies” at Asia Culture Center, South Korea (2017). He also participated in over 50 group exhibitions, including the 58th National Exhibition of Art in Bangalore, and several workshops and camps across the country. He was awarded a merit scholarship by his university; a 2009-2010 Junior Fellowship by the HRD, Ministry of Culture, Government of India; and the 2010 Navdeep Pratishthan Award for painting. He continues to paint and participate in the thriving art world in Baroda and beyond.
Patel’s watercolor paintings delve into themes that he faces in his daily life: (dis)ability, social exclusion, the body as vehicle, and interactions with physical environments. Though his collection of work contains diverse motifs, his core subjects include locomotor impairment and symbols of mobility: shoes, feet, athletics, and communication tools. The watercolors are often muted yet layered and rich, displaying a unique mastery of the medium. While his paintings sometimes tend toward the smaller size, he uses the space carefully to create thoughtful and nuanced statements on the place of disability in our world.
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- Object (2014) - Watercolor on paper, 12.9x12.9” [available]. A typewriter labeled “all Braill” with six keys and a blank sheet of paper, in front of a light purple and blue background. (#RAPA001)
- Skating (2003) - Watercolor on paper, 15x19” [available]. A white roller skate with three blue stripes and yellow laces, in front of a dark blue background containing two lace-up shoes. (#RAPA002)
- Defender (2003) - Watercolor on paper, 15x19” [available]. A blue lace-up shoe next to a soccer ball, in front of a black and red soccer net with a dull yellow background. (#RAPA003)
- A’ble’ness (2010) - Watercolor on paper, 30x40” [available]. A runner in a green outfit and prosthetic legs crosses the finish line of a racetrack in lane 5. In the foreground, six white lace-up shoes with dark stripes are aligned in a row. (#RAPA004)
- Keyhole (2006) - Watercolor on paper, 11x14” [available]. Six keyholes overlaid with lace-up shoes in various positions, in a palette of blue, brown, and yellow. (#RAPA005)
- Together (2001) - Watercolor on paper, 9x9.5” [available]. A pair of blue-gray lace-up shoes with loose laces, on a background of the same colors. (#RAPA006)
- Wish (2002) - Watercolor on paper, 9x9.5” [available]. A postage stamp containing an image of a brown lace-up shoe on a blue background, with the Hindi and English labels “Bharat India 100” and “Jutaa Shoes.” (#RAPA007)
- Smile, They Are Together (2014) - Watercolor on paper, 30x41” [b]. A transparent pair of lace-up shoes tied together, floating in front of a pink train car with the Hindi label “da pu.” (#RAPA008)
- Attire (2008) - Watercolor on paper, 20x26” [available]. Several prosthetic feet with pegs or peg-holes at the ankles, on a yellow-brown background. (#RAPA009)
- Conformity (2008) - Watercolor on paper, 26x40” [available]. The top part of a lace-up shoe, on a light purple-gray background. (#RAPA010)
- Khare-Gose, Archana. "G. Mahesh & Raju Patel’s “A Part Apart” at Clark House Initiative, Mumbai." Blouin Art Info, 23 June 2016.
- Patel, Raju. "Beauty and Body." Café Dissensus, 14 Aug. 2015.