Artist Anil Goswami celebrates the flamboyant spirit of good old denim with a designer touch

Uninitiated into the design component of art, the visitors at the recently concluded United Art Fair (UAF) in the Capital overlooked an impressive work of art — two mammoth-sized human skulls, a male and a female, positioned on either side of a giant glossy stainless steel wheel. The wheel had 16 partitions and the biggest one at the centre played the divider for the skulls.

The heads, albeit raw and apparently grotesque, possessed twinkling eyes. They wore pieces of denim all over them cut in spiral shapes. The denim is predominantly of various shades of blue followed by grey and black. The male skull wore playing cards symbols on its teeth, and the female, blood red and pink hearts. She was embellished with nose pins and rings piecing into her eyebrow as well. The spiral denim, pasted on the skull, was also anchored at a couple of places with art pins that served as added ornamentation.

The skull duo, paradoxically titled ‘Immortality’ is designed by a 35-year-old Delhi-based Santiniketan student Anil Goswami to symbolise the Denim Festival organised by corporate entity DLF sometime ago. It made its entry into UAF’s ‘Sculpture Park’ section by the virtue of its uniqueness.

Mr. Goswami, who holds a post-graduate degree in Conservation and Restoration from National Museum Institute, New Delhi, explains the philosophy and engineering of his work, “I was asked to make a work of art celebrating the flamboyant youth, both male and female, and the spirit of denim. Brain is the most important part of the human body; so I decided to show it through the skull. It’s a terrific brain that innovated with denim and influenced the youth.”

By using playing card symbols on the male skull’s teeth, the artist has embellished the skulls with a character of their own. “It represents the male’s gambling attitude, especially towards his career and often in matters of the heart,” and pasted the heart shaped denims on the female skull’s set of teeth to symbolise a woman’s emotional quotient.

Mr. Goswami had been experimenting with Celtic art, tattoos and the concept of spiral in literature and philosophy. Influenced by the spiral and its deeper meaning relating to life’s ups and down, in his work he cut denim in spirals and used light and dark shades of the fabric to represent the gloomy and glinting phases of life.

As a designer, he needed to be careful about the balance of colour, design, symmetry of the skull and weight. The skulls, as big as 13x8 feet in size, had to be weighed and balanced with 13 feet wheels only. He made 16 partitions within the wheel and metaphorically described them as peher or slots of the day or the power of time. So the overall meaning of the designer art roughly conveys that the human brain that made a terrific fabric is dear to all age groups and all genders at all times. It took him six months to conceptualise and two months to execute his work. He used 40 meters of denim for the entire work. “I even cut my own jeans when I fell short of raw fabric,” he says.

This kind of art, however, has its drawbacks. When its time-bound purpose is over, it is sent back to its maker/designer, and then “there are no takers”. Having admirers of such works is one thing but promoting them in public or art spaces is a different aspect altogether, the designer admits.

DLF sent the works to the fair for a resale, says Mr. Goswami. It went through an unplanned auction with no takers. Till there are any, it is installed outside Kiran Nadar Museum near Mehrauli, a DLF property in Delhi.