Scrap to sculptures: Students of a Chennai institute make art from waste

‘Thinker’, a sculpture made at the workshop   | Photo Credit: M_Karunakaran

Sheets of rusted metal, reddish orange gaskets, dismantled cars and fiery sparks — the backyard of the Government Industrial Training Institute, Guindy, which was once a dump yard for scrap waste is now being rapidly transformed into a site of Art. At an ongoing workshop held for this institution, by Vijayawada based scrap sculptor P Srinivas Rao, students scurry about, masks around their face and cutters in their hands, moulding automobile scrap parts into larger-than-life sculptures of flora, fauna and human figures.

Srinivas explains, “Junk Art evolved in the 1960s and was mainly seen as the Modernist revolt against the use of traditional materials in Fine Art and the desire to demonstrate that ‘art’ can be made out of anything. In India, the concept has been prevalent only for the last 10 years and is slowly catching on due to the large volume of automobile waste that is being generated.”

Using automobile scrap parts, the 35 students assemble a variety of sheets, pipes, blades, rods and angles in different sizes. They form five sculptures ‘Thinker’, ‘Silence’, ‘Horsehead’, ‘Eagle’ and ‘Welding Man’; the largest, ‘Thinker’, is 10-feet tall.

Students at the workshop

Students at the workshop   | Photo Credit: M_Karunakaran

According to K Vijayalakshmi, the Deputy Director in Charge of the institution, students of the one-year welding course here are typically led through the fundamentals of the craft, with additional field work and factory visits. Describing the curriculum, she says, “While the students practice on mild steel pieces, many are discarded or sent for recycling at the end of term. Further, the coursework does not allow for freedom of expression in their particular field.”

Bringing a team of trained sculptors with him, Srinivas guides the students on how to creatively manifest their skills using only materials available around them. An auto bonnet for the cheeks, a motorcycle petrol tank for the nose and mudguards for the eyebrows, the ‘Thinker’ begins to take shape, slowly but steadily as the students scrounge for pieces that fit.

Standing in front of the ‘Horsehead’ sculpture, Vijay Praveen Kauri, a sculptor from Kolkata speaks about the the prominence of the animal in the history of Indian artwork as well as in artist MF Hussain’s paintings. Vijay conceptualised the design and then helped the students build the installation layer by layer, starting with the outer shell and working from bottom to top.

Srinivas, who serves as a faculty member in the College of Architecture & Planning, Acharya Nagarjuna University has conducted various automobile scrap sculpture camps across the country alongside public installations in Guntur, Madurai, Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, Anantapur and Kurnool . He elaborates, “The students learn aspects of composition, arrangement, balance and anthropometry while working on a larger scale. To assemble artwork from scrap pieces develops intuition that can only be gained through practice.”

The participants are not just limited to technical diploma holders but also include graduates from Bachelor of Arts, History courses. A BE Mechanical graduate, Umashankar K’s passion for welding was ignited when he was working at the Hyundai Motor Company factory to assemble cars. He then enrolled into the institution to complete a NCVT (National Council for Vocational Training) certified course on welding. He says, “An industrial training setup requires only the use of straight line welding. In this workshop, we are exploring fabrication from different angles while pushing the limits of the material.”

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Printable version | May 8, 2021 1:39:45 AM |

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