Once upon a time, when I was a sculptor

Once upon a time, when I was a sculptor

Google sent me a picture today (actually to my sister). It is the ten year anniversary of a sculpture I made, my first ever life size sculpture. I had named it ‘Dreamer, but not the only one’ ... sigh … sorry?

It was part of the final year exhibition of graduating students.

I did my undergraduation in fine arts, specialising in sculpture. I haven’t touched clay or a paintbrush since then, in the last ten years. It feels nice to admit this openly.

I wasn’t interested in the degree. I was clueless about what I wanted to do. Someone in the family suggested that I should do fine arts and then get into animation. So I just went along. I had a flair for drawing. I was ‘okay’ talented; nowhere near some of my peers who knew they wanted to be nothing but artists. I just went with the flow.

But I was fascinated by the idea of making a life-size sculpture; Dhanush and I discussed about Renaissance art and Michelangelo endlessly. Making a life-size sculpture in marble was our ultimate goal.

My professors, who shall not be named, were terrible. They cared far too little about the students and the whole system was so bureaucratic, you felt like you were walking into a government office every morning. One such senior professor discouraged me from making this sculpture—“life-size?! No way. You can’t do it!” Ok uncle.

I don’t know why we needed his permission, but we did. So I set up a workspace behind the department, away from his (evil?) eye and worked on the sculpture.

I asked my friend (and the bass guitarist of my band), Anurag, to be the model. It was a painstaking two weeks for him, to sit in the posture for almost 8 hours a day, as I went on and on trying to finish it.

When my professor saw the final sculpture he said “Good! If you had worked hard like this from first year, you would have gone miles ahead today.” He was probably right. I should have practiced harder. But he was terrible at his job as a teacher, so it didn’t matter what he thought. He did make a valuable contribution to the sculpture by suggesting that I "don't paint it and leave it as is".

Throughout the program, I never really cared much about art. I didn’t understand it. I still don’t. I was young and I didn’t have my heart in it. It was the behaviour of a student forced to do an engineering degree, only here it was fine arts and no one forced it upon me. There was also so much fluff in it—“Art can’t be defined”, “even this piece of stone is art”, “even your thoughts are art”, “even your mom is art” and such.

My college was full of—pardon my unsavory choice of words—such shit. Or maybe it was just me who was not intelligent enough to understand the layers that existed in art. I also didn’t care enough to go learn about it. So that’s totally on me. I simply wasn’t as interested.

I wish I interacted more with Anil sir, a professor in art history and the only genuine teacher on campus; I would’ve learnt a thing or two and probably left the college holding a different opinion.

I know that the love for art exists in me. By that I mean the love to express myself with a material (and otherwise). But this need to study the great masters before doing anything original, must be limited to professions where you take instructions from above. Artistic self-expression needs to be encouraged right from the outset. It is impossible to find your voice and the courage to express yourself, if you have the dagger of “great masters” hanging over your head all day.

Today, the sculpture sits in the loft of my parents' home. They refused to give it away when they were moving cities, despite my insistence. They were so proud of me. It has startled a few people as they have walked into a room and thought someone was sitting there naked; some art pieces only belong in the gallery I guess.

Someday I will get back to art... and start over with a clean slate; where I will be unabashed and unapologetic about expressing myself; where the chatter of my mind will not matter and where I will make art just the way I like it.

But that dream will have to wait, there are many other that need to be fulfilled.

Armature (and Anurag)
Clay modelling
(Almost there)
Finished sculpture in fibreglass

Here's video proof that this was indeed from ten years ago, since you refuse to believe me.