Young artists are claiming spaces for socio-cultural dialogue with an unprecedented show of assertiveness and creativity. Abir Pothi brings to you the stories of two rising stars.
Harsha Vardhan Durugadda: Going sustainable and probing inter-personal relationships
If you love flowers, will you cut them and put them in a vase or will you plant new saplings? Can you love and be selfish at the same time? Sculptor and installation artist Harshavardhan Durugadda has gained a reputation for asking such ‘simple’ questions the probe deeper into the human psyche and for creating artworks that investigate such introspections.
“Many things are common sense but not common practice,” he says of the series that explored human behaviour. “The idea of love seems to be anthropocentric and we do not allow it to thrive unconditionally,” Harsha elaborated. He demonstrated this concept through the installation, Game of Self, where the word ‘Selfish’ is flashed in Urdu, Telugu, and English using neon lights. More works that deal with such themes are titled Conversation, Selfish Love, and Fish Love.
Investigating a variety of social and inter-personal themes through his prolific range of work, using media such as wood, glass, steel, concrete, aluminium, bamboo, resin and marble, he has created public artworks that have gained critical recognition. He is the recipient of the prestigious Rio Tinto Sculpture Award at the 13th annual Sculpture by the Sea show Australia for his elegant and minimalist installation in mild steel and wood, Column of Sound. Recently, he has started a new studio which is located inside a farm and he has engaged himself into sustainable farming – and living – along with pursuing his arts practice.
In line with this philosophy, his current work is focussed on creating a series of life-sized works using reclaimed wood. The theme of these works, Harsha says, is anti-stability and resilience. “Post pandemic, everyone shattered, including people among the artistic community. It had an impact on mental health,” says Harsha who wants to signify the event and its aftermath through this series. He is looking into using materials that fit into the circle of recycling. At the same time, having worked on few windmill projects before, he is also researching into the feasibility of making large-scale installations that generate energy.
When asked if he believes the audience is mature enough to appreciate new-age installations that are often disruptive in nature, he says: “It is just a matter of time.” The audience is available, he believes. “I have exhibited in Australia, Germany, among other places. Once an installation artist gets a pull, the maturity of the audience to be receptive of the themes and messages will also grow,” he says. When it comes to technique and visualization, twirls and whirls often feature in his works. For example, the interactive wooden sculpture Whirling Man welcomed viewers to spin it. Whirling Out, exhibited at the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, in 2016 was another series on the same theme.
Rajyashri Goody: Discussing caste narratives
Rajyashri Goody challenges caste systems and untouchability head on with her art. Through various mediums, including writing, ceramics, photography, video, and sculptural works made with found objects and food items, she attempts to decode and provide greater visibility to the narratives of everyday power and resistance within Dalit communities in India. Food, or the lack of it, is one of the central themes in Rajyashri’s work. Take for example, Ukadala, displayed at Serendipity Arts Festival 2019. It shows the meagre and often spoilt food that some sections of the society eat on a regular basis through a multitude of ceramic pieces.
‘Namak Halal’ shows a garland strung of red chillies and rock salt, often the only accompaniments to roti in Dalit communities, ‘Lal Bhaji,’ the Dalit code word for beef, is a take on food politics, and ‘Bhakar’ depicts the community’s frugal fare again. The highly contested Manusmriti denigrating women and dalits, a copy of which was publicly burnt by Bhimrao Ambedkar, also finds prominence in her works such as ‘Manu’ and ‘Joothan.’
In ‘What is the Caste of Water?’ she references the Chavdar Water Tank protest by dalits in Mahad, 1927, when Dalits drank water from a reservoir they were restricted from using for centuries. Rajyashri shows 108 vessels filled with panchgavya (a mixture of five components” milk, curd, ghee, cow urine, and cow dung) which was also used to ‘purify’ the water tank in Mahad after the incident.
(Photo courtesy: Harsha Vardhan Durugadda and rajyshrigoody.com)