Years ago, when Ahmedabad-based businessman Amit Ambalal bought some play-doh for his grandchildren, little did he suspect that he would soon be using the material to tell stories. Crafted from polymer clay, Ambalal’s multi-hued figurines — inspired from mythology or life around him — join his pastel sketches in a show titled “Recent Drawings & Sculptures” at Gallery Espace.
Born into an industrialist family in the textile business, Ambalal was nose-deep in the family trade till 1979, after which he chose to pursue a childhood dream — of being an artist. Better late than never they say, and it rings true in Ambalal’s case when he switched from suits to kurta-pyjamas, from being called “Seth Sahab” to “Amit bhai” at the age of 39. With pastels calling him, Ambalal happily left his textile mill behind to plunge into the world of Nathdwara art and pichwais, his favourites, and his studio. Put in a pinch of wry humour, and you have his signature style.
Take for instance, the polymer clay sculpture named Frequent Flier, where a tiger is frozen in mid-air as he jumps over a tree, or the piece called Food for Thought, where a black-and-white stag seems to emerge out of a resting tiger’s head. “I have often wondered what tigers dream of,” says the 71-year-old artist, “They’re probably dreaming of deer, aren’t they?”
In The Oracle, a creature with a dino-like head and great claws calls out to another being which can’t quite decide what it’s meant to be — this piece is Ambalal’s interpretation of the charms of a fortune-teller, where the whimsical part of you craves to give him an ear, while the more rationale half rubbishes the desire.
This quandary of emotions also shows up in Lungi Dive, a take on Yo! Yo! Honey Singh’s Lungi Dance. “The radio is usually on when I’m in my studio. And I really don’t know if I like the song or not, but they keep playing it over and over!” says Ambalal. It’s not every day that an earworm actually gets us to do something.
While in the sculpture titled Indra Infuriated, Ambalal revisits a personal favourite in mythological history — of god Indra coursing through clouds on Airavata, his white elephant, Kukkutasan is a comical play on the yoga asana by the same name. Gesturing to the piece where a large rooster approaches a man, Ambalal says, “Some things are just funny, like many asanas. Here you see a man doing the kukkutasan and he does it so beautifully that the rooster has fallen in love with him.”
Within glass cases where Ambalal’s sculptures stand in all their fantastical and comical glory, anything is possible.
Amit Ambalal’s work is on display at Gallery Espace, 16, Community Centre, New Friends Colony, till April 5 from 11 am to 7