Art

‘Mental walls are more dangerous than physical ones’

Artist, sculptor Arzan Khambatta explores the physical and metaphorical in his show

Walk into Arzan Khambatta’s Sewri studio and you are surrounded by the artist and sculptor’s work – some complete and some works in progress. Khambatta tells us that he has a rule: he needs to see everything that he has ever created or is in the process of making, no object is unwanted and nothing gets bubble-wrapped and stored in the loft. It’s several such saved components that are now a part of his ongoing show, Walls. “It’s a beautiful feeling when a component that has been hung on a wall for 10 years and wasn’t useful to me till now as it fits perfectly inside the wall. It’s a very natural sort of a way of working.”

Architecture is a constant muse for the sculptor and Khambatta has created 11 walls for this exhibition. Khambatta explains that right from pre-historic cave paintings or be it our modern homes, walls are something we have always used to express ourselves and hide behind. We also often build inner walls to separate the outside world from our thoughts and beliefs. Khambatta, who often works with figurines chose to go abstract this time deliberately wanting to do something different. “I wanted to create a singular experience throughout the gallery. The spectator comes in and walks to one sculpture and not multiple sculptures,” he says.

The idea emanated from Khambatta’s fascination with walls. He then wanted the viewer to experience being within a space, with a play on the lighting. What piqued Khambatta’s interest was a fundraising project which he executed for the Jai Vakeel Foundation last year. As part of the project, Khambatta had created 101 sculptures, which were painted by different artists and were then auctioned for the foundation. “One word that they hammered into all of us was inclusiveness. They are constantly working to create a society which is an inclusive space for intellectually disabled children, where you can take them freely to parks, theatres, in public without being ridiculed. To me, it was such a big wall that is meant to be broken, it’s a mental wall by people who don’t accept another kind of people within them or near them. The mental walls are more dangerous than the physical ones,” he shares.

Art and process

Khambatta used an interesting method this time with the aim of presenting separate pieces as one for the viewer. He started by creating large frameworks which were placed horizontally in his studio, and then worked simultaneously on all of them together. “There’s a purpose behind each piece in each wall, a visual connotation that aesthetically binds all of them,” he says. The show reminds us of Khambatta’s 2011 outing, Micropolis, where he explored the reaction of man to his surroundings and how living in a city like Mumbai shapes our thoughts, opinions and even way of living. “I have a very strong architectural background which acts as a catalyst for my pieces. I usually include several figurines in my shows. For Walls, I wanted the spectator to be the human element in the sculpture.”

In the pipeline

Khambatta is known for conducting workshops for children at schools and his Sewri studio. He plans to take this a step further this year by dedicating space within his studio for teaching. He also has plans to conduct workshops for corporate clients and any adult who is interested in exploring metal art and sculpture as a stress buster.

Khambatta has also been working on a series of black and white abstract sketches which he plans to exhibit someday. What you will get to see soon is a 15-feet bronze cast bull for a traffic island in Worli, which has been commissioned by a leading bank.

Walls is ongoing at Art and Soul, Worli until January 31

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 1:58:00 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/mental-walls-are-more-dangerous-than-physical-ones/article30636164.ece

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