A highly respected sculptor and teacher of many stalwart artists, Krishna Chhatpar, left his earthly abode on July 7, 2022, at the age of 86.
Born on May 24, 1936, Chhatpar chose the artistic path and eventually became a professor at the prestigious Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU) of Baroda for a life-long stint, and is known to have mentored and inspired generations of contemporary artists.
On the site Critical Collective, an analysis of the Modernist movement in Indian sculpture touches upon the figurative phase of the Seventies, and speaks of how Chhatpar “isolated the human limbs, rendered in plaster, with startling realism, made even more so [sic.] in the way a forearm is shown vertically, resting on its hand with sprawled out fingers, the upper portion of which gets transformed into a sensuous thing. The dematerialization aspect and an aura of mystery around the figure form also reveal an affinity with Giacometti’s work…”.
About his passing, well-known artist Rekha Rodwittiya mourned, “An irreplaceable loss of a dedicated human being, whose informed teachings and empathy shaped the lives of so many students since 1960. He was a teacher who influenced me greatly in my foundation years at the Faculty of Fine Arts. He was someone who taught me the value of visual perception as an art student and the skill of developing an aesthetic comprehension. The art world in India has lost a quiet soul who contributed so much without ever asking for anything in return.”
Earlier, writing for the Aicon Gallery, Rodwittiya had also said, “Chhatpar taught sculpture to…foundation course. His method of instruction was to invite you to find your curiosity. His quiet conversations held many stories that were often anecdotal and which allowed you to recognize how to enter into the world of art from the personalized spaces of experience and identification, and to notice the small things around with more detailed attention.”
Iconic and internationally celebrated sculptor Dhruva Mistry also described Chhatpar as a mentor, and told FWD Life that he “respects the conceptual beauty and mindfulness of his works.”
Chhatpar encouraged a discursive approach towards sculpture, and taught alongside several luminaries, including Ratan Parimoo, Mahendra Pandya, Raghav Kaneria, Kumud Patel, G.M. Sheikh, Vinodray Patel, Jyoti Bhatt, Ramesh Pandya, R. Panchal, V.S. Patel and later Jyotsna Bhatt, among other non-alumnus entrants like Jeram Patel and Nasreen Mohamedi.
Tributes for the teacher poured in as the news of his death spread. Sculptor Megha Joshi, an alumna of MSU, posted condolences on Facebook and wrote, “So long, Sir. Shri Krishna Chhatpar, creator of more artists than art. He lived a life that was so much more deeply moving than any artwork. I hope one of his students closer to him will write a book on him. An extraordinary human being. Deeply mourned, remembered forever.”
Similarly, speaking of his time at MSU, Telangana artist Ravinder Reddy, speaking to Shubh Yatra, informed that professor Chhatpar was a teacher who was “instrumental in making him aware of form, volume, texture and sensitivity towards one’s own surroundings.” Reddy said that it was under Chhatpar’s guidance that he began to explore his ideas through sculpture.
In an interview with Odisha Bytes, well-known sculptor Arunkumar HG — while speaking about his sustainable art that celebrates nature — mentioned Chhatpar’s profound influence on his artistic roots while studying at MSU. Describing how this academic stint shaped his artistic vision, Arunkumar stated, “In the very first class of BFA in the first week of July when I joined MSU, our teacher, Krishna Chhatpar came to the class. A lecturer in sculptures, he was an extraordinary human being and had a diverse personality. In the very first class, he took us for a plantation session. I did not understand the reason for doing so then but later, I could guess his message.”