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A creative catalyst

Sculptor Joseph A. Henselmann is here all the way from Germany to conduct stimulating workshops

The theme of the first workshop was 20th Century's icons, the second on our fragile environment, and the third on bricks.

"I LOOK forward to my annual visit to Chitrakala Parishath," says the affable German sculptor, Joseph A. Henselmann. "And thoroughly enjoy the opportunity of working with students here." The visiting professor from Munich, whose multi-dimensional sculptures and installations have been mounted in various cities of Germany, is about to conclude his third outing in Bangalore. Every year, he travels all the way from Munich to Bangalore, conducts stimulating workshops for the students at the Parishat, creates a vibrant platform for them to showcase their works and even offers awards to the best talent — all from his own personal account!

D.K. Chowta, Secretary, Chitrakala Parishath, recalls: "Three years ago, when we received the offer from the professor through one of our well-wishers: a Bangalorean, now settled in Munich, we were pleasantly surprised. Dr. Henselmann made no demands whatsoever; all he wanted was an opportunity to interact with our students. We have benefited immensely from his visits."

Suresh Jayaram, Principal of the Parishath and Head of Art History Department, elaborates: "Dr. Henselmann has been a creative catalyst. He institutes small projects with students that challenge their creative instincts and expand their creative boundaries. By encouraging young minds to uncover the polyvalent character of installation, his workshops provide them with possibilities of exploring material and space. We have seen him interacting and bringing in the much-needed break from the routine of academics..."

No preacher

Dr. Henselmann categorically says that his role is more that of a facilitator than of a preacher: "I try my best not to influence students. I encourage them to develop their own ideas and respect their freedom and the choices they make. I am happy to be a witness to the way they form their thoughts. Very often, I see them use indigenous material, which are totally different from the western conventions. By doing all these, I also learn a lot myself from them." The theme of the first workshop was Icons of the 20th Century, where the students identified public figures such as Mahatma Gandhi, Charlie Chaplin, Mother Theresa, Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock, Kuvempu, Abdul Kalam, Pablo Picasso, Sachin Tendulkar, Walt Disney, K.T. Shiva Prasad, Kamala Devi Chattopadhyaya, M.Visvesvaraiah, RabindranathTagore, and Ambedkar, explored their persona, and came out with some exciting interpretations of their multi-faceted personalities.

The second workshop, Installation, saw the students using diverse material and innovative ideas to express their strong concerns about the fragile environment and its degradation. The third workshop, which recently concluded, was based on the theme, Bricks. "When I chose this theme, I was a bit worried that the students may be tempted to generate mundane ideas like huts and buildings," reveals Dr. Henselmann. "I am very happy that they disproved my apprehensions!" On their part, the students found the concept appealing and used the brick — first produced in a sun-dried form some 6,000 years ago — to produce a host of innovative exhibits.

While some artist-sculptors exploited the very nature and functionality of the brick in their works, others embraced a more metaphorical and lyrical itinerary to fashion their public and private impressions, fears and apprehensions. An exhibition of the works created by the students during the workshop is currently on at the Parishath. The show, which includes the award-winning entries, concludes on March 3.

In the meanwhile, after a month-long sojourn in Bangalore, Dr. Henselmann will return to Munich, this week. "I'll be back next year," he says, with assurance. "I am already working on several themes for the next year's workshop!"


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