Steel as Canvas
Sharmistha Ray’s first sculptural installation On the Seashore of Endless Worlds exhibited at Kalaghoda Arts Festival 2015 is fabricated entirely from mild steel and integrates the artist’s ideas about painting, sculpture and installation in an innovative way. The painted steel sculpture consists of a magnificent crescent moon sitting atop Ray’s abstract interpretation of the seashore merging with a restless sea. The four sides of the base are independent paintings that are variations on the theme of the title. Ray appropriates steel for the sculpture to create a vivid contrast between the ubiquitous industrial material with the poetic and personal nature of painting. In doing so, she adapts the steel to become a rarefied work of art.
Inspired by the eponymous poem by Rabindranath Tagore from the collection of poems “Crescent Moon,” this work represents the constancy of Nature, the interconnectedness of Life and the unending ebb and flow of Creation. A line from the original poem by Tagore reads “On the seashore of endless worlds is the great meeting of children.” To Ray, the line evokes the innocence of childhood, trips to the seashore, the infinite nature of the ocean that triggers imaginary flows and our collective participation in the act of creation. The work is rooted in the kind of abstract, imaginary landscapes that Ray is known for and draws from her unique repertoire of painterly techniques such as layering, texture and bold color harmonies.
A few months ago, Ray approached prominent art patron and industrialist Mrs. Sangita Jindal with the concept of the crescent moon sculpture with painted elements. Mrs. Jindal facilitated the making of the work by putting a team from JSW into place to assist the artist in making her vision come to life. Ray worked alongside a talented marketing and technical team to create an original work of art that brings together painting, sculpture and installation into one distinctive format for the public. The new work has been realized with meticulous attention to every detail of its fabrication, which culminated over a series of meetings between the artist and the core team on the project. This included a field trip to one of the company’s local factories to engage with the manufacturing process of steel. So taken was the artist with the industrial nature of the manufacturing process of this metal, that she decided to use it as a medium to paint on. This resulted in her first “painted sculpture” which will be seen at the public arts festival.
Says Mrs. Jindal: Can the steel sheet become the new canvas? I believe it can.By supporting Sharmistha Ray’s first large public installation, I hope to support artists interested in both, traditional media and innovative art practices.
The sculpture measures approximately 14 (L) x 5 (W) x 12 (H) feet and consists of over 3.5 tonnes of steel, which was provided by the JSW steel factory at Dolvi. The sculpture was fabricated in Mumbai under the close supervision of the artist and company’s core team. After the fabrication of the structure, Ray was an artist-in-residence at one of the company’s properties to complete the painting of the work, which covers a surface area of 135 square feet. Inspired by the poem by Tagore, Ray imagines the wrap-around sculpture as a meditative walk along the seashore. A brightly lit sandy beach in brilliant yellows becomes a rocky terrain, which changes again on the verso as shadows creep in and the sea reflects the colors of dusk. Nature and the organic are important elements in the artist’s work and the new painted sculpture is an extension of Ray’s preoccupation with the spiritual realm, which was so often evoked by Tagore and his contemporaries.
The synthesis of visual aesthetics and poetry are fundamental to Ray’s public art concept to engender poetic spaces in our urban cities. On the Seashore of Endless Worlds is designed and created especially for the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival. The artist was keen to participate in a public festival where people of all ages and walks of life can enjoy the new artwork on different levels. Although the sculptural installation is a realized ‘work of art,’ its bold color palette, heightened drama and optical excitement is purposeful to engage diverse audiences in a public space. The spirit of democratic engagement at the largest public arts festival in Mumbai makes it a perfect venue for the majestic work to be viewed for the first time.