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A French sculptor’s journey from Burgundy to black granite

Charles Zanon, a French-sculptor, says his stay in Auroville has helped him better understand his art

September 12, 2022 07:48 pm | Updated September 13, 2022 09:31 pm IST - PUDUCHERRY

One of Charles Zanon’s works.

One of Charles Zanon’s works.

For French sculptor Charles Zanon, participating in the Auroville way of community living, especially its quest for deeper meanings of existence, was to be a clarifying experience as a person, and as artist.

“I discovered spirituality for the first time in my life. It touched me a lot, and I decided to settle down in Auroville. Now, I feel that I have a better understanding of what I try to do as an artist,” says Mr. Zanon, who is currently putting on his first solo exhibition in India ‘Unexpected’ at the Auroville Botanical Gardens.

Spirituality, he adds, equipped him with the tools to understand himself as a person and an artist; a twin-track process of evolution of discovering one’s inner consciousness and simultaneously exploring creative expression externally.

Mr. Zanon has showcased 11 of his abstract and contemporary sculptures at the event which is on till September 25. His pieces are large and installation-like.

Sculpture, Mr. Zanon says, is the ideal medium to confront, as an artist, the dimensions of space and time with that of a vaster, immaterial universe. “Each work is an original, a figurative creation that emerges from an inquiry into the underlying infinite, and is open to interpretation. It is almost like the artist is inviting the viewer to encounter his art as the echoing dialogue between worlds, the simple vibration of matter reaching beyond the limitations of culture, space and time,” he adds.

The French sculptor of Venetian origin, who was born in Burgundy in 1988, took to the arts early in his career. He has showcased his creations in Paris, in prestigious venues such as the Carousel du Louvre and the Grand Palais. However, a visit to India in 2018 proved to be a life-altering experience and also changed his approach to art. Struck by the spiritual power of the land, Mr. Zanon decided to settle in Auroville the following year.

Since then, the majestic black granite of Tamil Nadu, which has been the sculptural medium for depicting innumerable gods and adorning temple walls, would become his blank slate. “In the beginning, I thought I will not enjoy working on black granite because it is very specific in tonality”, Mr. Zanon says about digressing from the European sculptural tradition of white limestone/marble.

“But, later on my artistic journey with the black stone turned fantastic,” quips the artist, who also has plans to exhibit his work in other cities.

A parallel experience in Auroville was his newfound practice of karma yoga, which he describes as, “A renewal in my spiritual life that transforms my whole being.” Yoga would soon become inextricably linked with his artistic process.

On choosing ‘Unexpected’ as the title for his show, he says it perhaps reflects his own experience with happenstance. “Sometimes, many things in my life have happened unexpectedly. For instance, as a sculptor I never imagined I would be sculpting in stone when I came to Auroville. Several other things like this have happened beyond my will. As a result of a guiding force, if you will”, Mr. Zanon says.

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