Art News & Views

Contemporary Trends of Sculpting

Works of Akhil Chandra Das & Nantu Behari Das
Sculpture-making since its inception takes us through a journey where artists have again and again sought after that eternal energy in the manifestation of their thoughts. 'Conceiving form in depth' as in the humanist tradition or in search of absolute values of 'pure form' or may be in Herbert Read's words, “…the modern period has seen the invention of three-dimensional works of art which are in no sense 'sculpted' or moulded. They are built up, like architecture, or constructed like a machine”- the passion behind sculpting was always lively with the joy of procreation.

The history of sculpture from the tradition of image-making till sculpting has been one of the most inventive, conceptual and ideational discourse of aesthetics. Sculptors across the globe have always experimented with techniques, materials and mediums. And with globalization at the backdrop, sculpting has become a blend of various art forms executed with a much broader connotation and new syntax. The new generation sculptors are working both ways conventional handling of medium and material as well as breaking set-parameters and exploring new methods. Scrap and junk material are profoundly being used to generate concepts by the new generation artists. The whole idea has changed from recreating a material to that of the material itself gets recreated in a piece of art.

It has become the call of the day for artists dealing with any medium on the onset of the twenty-first century to evolve through an individualistic language but with a universal approach of execution. Art has in fact gone out of the realm of any context that breeds content. Rather it is more concept based dealing with personal metaphors and signifiers that have implication and connotation beyond any categorical and essential boundary. Young, dynamic Indian artists are engaged in one such creative endeavor and their art practice today has transcended any boundary line of ideas, techniques and the gamut of thought-process.

Two contemporary sculptors from Kolkata are experimenting in their own language to express somewhat the same philosophy but entirely in two different ways that calls for a bigger difference. Nantu Behari Das, a Kolkata-based sculptor allows the raw material itself to evolve as a sculpture decoding the basic quality of the material and giving it a new denomination of signifier-signified relationship. Nantu does not imbibe the installation pattern again in its conventional term. On the contrary he sculpts may be a doll but with scrap material where the material is also symbolic and convey a different meaning. Therefore through content, form and medium he invokes a thought process and induces a cerebral journey when one begins to reciprocate with his works. The mock element in his work is intense and he transposes his intended ideation with much conviction when he plays around with different materials that were never in tradition of executing sculptures. He has been engaged in this practice since the inception of his professional career nearly to complete a decade but he was one among the initiators in the sculpture scenario of the country who took the challenge of developing this new language. His art of sculpting directly indicates to a certain level of realization where he makes critical statements through the concepts he devises as sculptures it can be on consumerism, hybrid state of being, loss of identity, autonomy of a dominant discourse and so on…

Akhil Chandra Das executes his thought process in sculpting that revolves around such humanist values. The essence of his works lies in the solemn touch of organic reality that is exercised through the formal tenets of sculpting and moulding. The different instinctual aspects of the human mind contribute to the making of his concept and the broader content, sometimes it is the positive side and sometimes it is the negative side but to be understood in relative terms and not as absolute determinants. Akhil at times, gets disturbed with his state of being, the contemporary world order and moreover the political scenario circumscribing him. As a reflex of such situations, his creations are an attempt to proliferate something meaningful. Akhil's work trend might seem a bit emulating yet with semi-real and surreal figures in metal casting; he builds up anguish and existential predicament as a trademark of his works. At the same time, he is more intrinsic in breeding serenity through the saintly figures with minute detailing of posture and creating the proper essence to give a feel to the inanimate sculpture.

The dichotomy of the 'good' and the 'bad' or the 'pious' and the 'ugly' coexist in the sculptural forms both in Nantu's and Akhil's works. But difference in a broader way is created through their individual technique and process of execution. Both of them have their independent language to work with. If Akhil is keener on the conventional parameters, Nantu simply does away with them. The conjugation of wood and metal holds the main significance in Akhil's works. This conjugation of the oppositional forces acts as a signifier in most of his works. The binary is enunciated in such a way that the message conveyed to the viewer leaves one intrigued instead of creating any intrusion. A balance is tuned in even if the figure represents the head of a tiger and the breast of a human, the head of a man and the body of a fish or a vulture, the structure of a divine figure with the moulding of human limbs.

Nantu is not interested in explicitly representing things as binary or oppositional action-reaction relationship. The integrity of the raw material with its depth, hollowness, texture, luster is exactly what matters for Nantu who transforms and transcends the material to a subject of communication, discourse and confrontation also at times. As in Akhil's works any kind of thought process that searches for a relief immediately gets down to be identified through the material the artist is so accustomed with, but for Nantu, it is an eventual experimentation with raw materials that evolves every time in each and every work of his. As his material is in itself a subject, it keeps on changing even if the spirit of the content remains the same.

Akhil himself puts it in a very spontaneous way regarding his unification with the materials and how he just cannot do without them. Nantu thinks every material is interesting and challenging to deal with and he is overwhelmed to do so because that's how the world order is set where evolution is a continuous process. As a sculptor he feels what could be the better way than this where he enjoys extreme freedom from every possible end in giving shape to his thought-process and creative endeavor.


  Sharmistha Maiti  




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