Artist S Nandagopal’s sculpture, titled Vishnu III, has a cobra, outlined in copper and brass, holding a golden human figure in its grip. Krishna is a silver-plated copper-and-brass interpretation of the Hindu deity, moulded in an abstract style reminiscent of rock paintings. These are among the 21 sculptures that rest in the halls of Art Alive Gallery in Delhi as part of Nandagopal’s solo show of recent sculptures.
The works, derived from mythology, however, have ben rendered with a contemporary touch and bear little resemblance to popular depictions. The 70-year-old says, “There is so much to be learnt from the past. I am not bothered about iconography and do not believe in looking at the past. Instead, I use it as a springboard and then distort and play around with the images. It takes off to modern times.”
Using the process of brazing, by which two or more metal items are joined together, Nandagopal creates works that continue his dialogue with Hindu mythology and ancient Indian traditions.
“If we know well about our past and the techniques used in contemporary art in modern times, we can form fresh perspectives and designs. Much like how a scientist cannot make any invention in his particular field if he has no knowledge of what has been accomplished before, it is imperative to know about our history and move ahead,” he says.
In Musician, an enamelled human figure in red hangs atop a sitar, while sculpted birds appear enthralled by the magic of the music. As if handpicked from a circus act, an animal holds a person in the air in Acrobat. “I call my works frontal narrative sculptures. Take the example of a Nataraja, which is hardly modelled at the back. The viewer barely wants to look at it from behind. I am interested in the frontality,” says the artist.
Nandagopal, who won the National Award at the age of 23 for sculpting, lives at the Cholamandal artists’ village near Chennai. Armed with a degree in Physics from Loyola College, Nandagopal delves into his knowledge of Math and Science while crafting his sculptures.
“I never thought of becoming an artist. I wanted to be a respectable physicist or engineer. But, following my strong inclination towards art, I ended up joining the ceramics section at College of Arts and Crafts, Madras, before I moved to painting and finally to sculpting,” he says.
The exhibition is on till April 30 at S-221 Panchsheel Park, Delhi