Parag Tandel on his sculptures and installations.
Parag Tandel is a thoughtful and concerned artist who is involved in many nature and social awareness programs. His work is not only an expression of first hand experience of the society from where he hails (he belongs to fishermen folk from Thane, near Mumbai) but also his everyday travel experiences. His site-based works also deal with serious issues of destruction and apartheid behavior against the victims of nature and poverty. In one of the installation he also highlights on innocent beliefs of people which can also be termed as blind belief by intellectuals. But whatever it is, it the faith of people that he highlights. I spoke to him on almost ten of his sculptures and installation and he justified every work with relevant reason. I wish to give the account in his own words that magnify his say.
JK: Tell us about your sculpture and installations.
P. T: I established my self as an artist in 2005 and since then involved myself in various visual art expressions. Since beginning I am interested in sculpture and installations based on meticulous observation and research. My sculptures and site specific installations are the social dialogues and globally concerned topics. I aim to bring to notice public ignorance towards society and nature and its severe effects on every living being on the earth be it flora, fauna or human beings. For me “Concept is common but creating it in my own language of image is very important ". As I grew up and was drawn in complexity of society and its environs; I became mentally and physically mature and realized the gradual but obvious changes in me. I found the Art as the only way to express my concern and passion. I became instinctive and understood that art is not just for expression of beauty but for the social cause too; developing concern and awareness for environment around us and started experimenting in various mediums. I was also lucky to be successful in actually presenting my imagination into reality and making use of commonly found, low or no cost materials like, wood, rubber, clay which are many a times discarded materials or objects in junk yard, since I believe in showcasing my concept in minimum cost and simplicity.
My sculptures are the first hand experiences that I have while at home, with family and friends or even out there in vast surroundings of my social environs. These all give an artistic expression to my creations. My confidence in my imagination initially resulted in two exhibitions called Pregnant Room 1’ and ‘Pregnant Room -2’ respectively. In pregnant room – 1 I have dealt with the experience of walking and excessive walking that leads to blister on feet. I have applied reverse theory on floor that, because of constant walking on it, it gets blisters on its surface. I have specifically kept in mind the busiest platform of CST railway platform, which had worn out and is now modified. I applied the human character of developing blisters due to constant walking for long hours to this inanimate platform which has been used by commuters and goods carriers on railway platforms since very long time. In this Wood, Rubber, FRP combines to create sculpture laid on the floor. Through this air bubbled rubber sheet that lay on the floor, I wanted the visitors to experience the touch of sensitive and frail blisters and so let them walk by stamping on these protrudes. But even the thought of it being skin and blisters prevented some of them from walking on it. I think this was the real success of my creation to produce the desired effect in minds of observers.
People have reviewed these sculptures as familiar and enigmatic which are also simple and complex at the same time. I am happy with there feedback as many a times they are true to my intention of creations. There is a step beyond self-expression, a social consciousness as generally I suppose Art can instill a sense of connectivity to our environment. Sculpture can interconnect the realms of art, science, nature and humanity.
In Pregnant Room 2: III Sculptural Installation, I experimented with Rice flour bread (rotis) incased in
resin, thread and straw mat and created a wall sculpture which is nostalgia of my mother preparing
these rice flour breads and selling it to earn money for family. Though we had a family profession of fishing, due to worst conditions in this field, my mother and other our folk women were compelled to leave this profession and adopt the very different way of earning means. . It was strange that a (bread) roti was sold to earn daily (bread) roti.
Pregnant Room 2 continues as a part of In Pregnant Room 2: III Sculptural Installation, I introduced injections & hairclips with wheat flour (rotis) incased in resin, which symbolically signifies the modern method of Botox injection to increase beauty and hide the growing age and real bread which is actually helpful in being healthy and strong. But modern day elites prefer Botox instead of natural food. In pregnant room-2 V Moths around tube light which I daily experienced in my studio which is besides mangrove forest, whole year moths hover in my studio this was just an experience but I used materials which were at hand and around my daily life to share this experience. Pregnant Room 1: V is a Stoneware sculpture presenting violent city and its grueling pressures, and the fragile medium (stoneware) creates sound in it.
The instinct to present social and environmental issues triggered and became the aim of my Artistic
mission when I was personally affected by the toxics and had Tuberculosis in 2009, as I regularlyworked using harmful chemical in my studio and breathed it in and out almost everyday. I was given
the injections to strengthen my lungs and I had to go through lot of pain to recover. Feeling I have experienced when I was told to do a CT Scan. They gave me injections for contrast and if you can’t digest that contrast you get vomits, I really felt violent that time as if something is attacking on my body and
body is fighting internally in violent way to recover from external attack. At that time I realized the cruelty that we inflict on our environment and something must be done to stop or at least reduce it. So I started working on realistic concept. Pregnant room-2 II is where I have presented worn and torn foam sheet to present Lungs and how it looked after being under toxic attacks (may be by as a professional in field related to harmful chemicals or using toxic colors or it can simply be due to consuming
tobacco or chain smoking) is an installation based on this fearful personal experience.
While I have designed and installed public art projects, it is my most recent environmental designs that I wish to talk about to give an idea of how I would approach future projects from an artistic and rational
point of view. In ‘Big Catch’, I have employed background of fishing community and my family business.I have worked using the garbage or junk items that loiter in the junk yards or are randomly found on streets and in neighbor hood. In pregnant room - 2 -I I used Silicon rubber and discarded, worn out nylon fishing net. This fishing net seems to be allergic to the pollution of toxics poured in the by humans in sea. The blistered texture for the catch from the sea is developed using bubble rubber sheet and amoeba shape hanging on the wall hooked in a nail.
In 2007 as a public art project for Kalaghoda festival sponsored by Pundole art gallery, Mumbai, I had
installed ‘Unbranded guards branded’ that highlights an orthodox belief of Indians (especially followers
of Hinduism) that shows green chilies and lemon sewed in a thread and hanged at the entrance of the
house or commercial premises to ward off evil. It has always fascinated me that a security can come so cheap and considered powerful without any arms and ammunition for safety. And interestingly, every kind of person either illiterate or qualified, use this abstract, unpatented method of security and protection. In 2009 I was invited for a site specific workshop ‘Sandarbh’ in Paratpur, Rajasthan,India. Here houses were ruined due to heavy rainfall. One of the houses was in debris as the family hadleft it during the calamity. Though Government was responsible to rehabilitate them and give aid for reconstruction of house, no one and for that matter not even the local municipal office took heed of it. This was an injustice and sad state which inspired me to use this site as an eye opener towards the lethargic and careless attitude, so, as a project called “Completion of Incomplete” I cleaned the whole tenement house and rearranged everything around the house, applied cow dung and soil to makes wall better and stand and make it visible to viewers and bring to notice and make them ponder whose fault was it exactly? Natural or man imposed? Basically I like to handle the social issues and problems which do not have any specific individual creator but society and nature as whole. I also share this with thoughtful minds as I conduct workshops and brain-storming sessions to create awareness towards our environment and society that we live in.
My site specific works are closely knit to survival instincts. ‘Big Catch’ for Kalaghoda festival, Mumbai,
sponsored by Pundole art gallery in 2012 is a public art project. It is an installation based on my daily
experience of travel to my studio which is at Vitawa Thane), a starting point of fishing area. Since a few
years, as the fishermen row to find the fish in deep waters they catch more than just a fish and it is all
but garbage dumped in sea like, thermocol, plastic bags and bottles, electrical equipments, foot wear and all the waste polluting and destroying the eco-system of this area.The garbage is so prominently tucked in net that it seems to be a new species of fish. This garbage itself is the medium I have worked with. I installed a big fish made out of worn out fishing net and all the garbage dumped in it, here I wished to present an unusual and sarcastically newly identified species of fish; dangerous fish, rather
than known ones.
Q: How would you like to enhance your work?
P.T: I would like to advent into varied communities and cultures, know the positives and negatives around the globe and present them in my works sometimes simply for visual delight and mostly to develop concern and awareness.
PK: Wish you success in all your noble plans!
PT: Thank you.