Tall and unique in sculptural art

If you have ever noticed the magnificently sculpted Garuda (eagle) at Tirupati Airport, in all likelihood, without even blinking your eyes, you’ll be able to fathom the genius of its sculptor, Arun Pandit. A mythological bird that the eagle is in Hindu tradition, it is considered to be the sacred vehicle of Lord Vishnu. Belief goes that Garuda's wings are powerful and energetic enough to shake the earth and create a whirlwind in the sky. Garuda is also a synonym for flying. It is associated with both collective folk-memory and classical scriptures. Thus, a Garuda’s sculpture can be said an extension of our institutional memory.

But sticking to this sole conclusion may be myopic. Arun employs the concept of ‘Multiple’ frequently in his sculptures. (Multiculturalism in sculptural art means the use of a certain part or component of a body rather repeatedly. In Hindu mythology, Shiva has three eyes, Ravan had ten heads and Durga possesses multiple hands. Their uses in Indian sculptures are ages-old). But Arun’s multiples stand apart in terms of a modern awareness, not the traditional one. Instead of twin-pawn, Aruna’s Garuda has twelve hands. But these twelve hands have been sculpted in such manner that they create impression of wings. Symbolically, multiple wings symbolize the aspiration of a contemporary man to fly, far and wide.

The art critics noticed Arun’s creative prowess, experimentation and his originality for the first time during his exhibition at the national Lalit Kala Akademi in April 2016. His sculptures carry several innovations: some has several hands, numerous fingers and even many feet. But these innovations are not accidental. Arun has developed the unique style through his diligence and tireless efforts since his MFA days in the College of Art, Delhi.

Coming from Bihar, Arun landed in Delhi in 1995 to complete his MFA, having finished BFA from College of arts and crafts, Patna. Initially, he wasn’t even comfortable in English, which was the medium of teaching in the college. This made him feel quite out of place, until he met and reached out to his mentor Rubina Karore there. Though Rubina taught art and history in English, her unconventional style and thought process cast a transformative spell on Arun’s vision of art forever. Here Arun got initiated to the nuances of modern art too. Constantine Brancucie’s sculptors in ‘Bird in Space’ series majorly inspired him. Bird is conspicuous by its absence in Brancuci’s sculptures. Not even its wing is present to represent bird. Answering the question why it was named 'Bird in Space', Brancuci stated that even if a visually impaired touches the art-work, he will have an impression the some thing is flying up the air. It meant art should make an impression on mind; sculpting a complete bird is not a necessary precondition for creating an appearance of a bird. Everything depends on how you look at things. This concept of the ‘Impression’ touched the core of Arun’s heart, and the rest is history.

College of Arts had probing teachers like Prananath Mago who posed piercing questions to Arun about texture, non-alignment and such other details. Such questions made him uncomfortable but at the same time helped him curate his own answers and uniqueness. Making the matter worse, Arun had to work outside to fend for his studies, depriving him of quality time. The churning generated distinctiveness in more than one-way: Like many other sculptors, Arun also employs the mould, but his application of mould is quite different from others. It creates an impression as if the artist has made some stand alone structures and pressed them together in a manner that they got stuck with each like a jig-sawpuzzle to create a meaningful whole.

If you look at Arun’s different work, you get a feeling that they simultaneously evoke layers of both thoughts and emotions. That’s the reason we find an uninitiated sipping the juice of his work with interest as much as a connoisseur of art or as one who has understanding of postmodernism in art. So, it may be safely concluded that Arun stands apart and tall – in originality and uniqueness – and he in all likelihood would push the height of the India’s sculpture higher than where it stands today.