n a free-wheeling conversation, renowned Mumbai-based sculptor Arzan Khambatta tells us how understanding art is not a complicated affair.
A chat with architect-sculptor Arzan Khambatta is like being a part of a rapid fire round — he is quick with his replies, frank and non-judgmental. On the sidelines of the 11th Pune Design Festival, Khambatta talks about aesthetics, art appreciation and how he loves to work on the initial brief. Here he goes:
At Pune Design Festival, organised by Association of Designers of India, Pune Chapter, Khambatta spoke on the theme ‘Trans.form’. “Using my work, I have designed the whole talk around the theme. I have thought of something which revolves around the abstract language of aesthetics and can be transformed by a good designer into a physical form,” says Khambatta.
But what if the layman isn’t able to understand his public sculptures? Quick to respond, Khambatta says, “I have got a take on this. Many people don’t go to art galleries giving the reason that they don’t understand modern art. I tell them, ‘Don’t try to understand it. Go to the gallery, see the works and find out if you like them or not.”
His mantra is that art appreciation should be kept simple. “Let people learn about art slowly. Automatically, they will progress. Don’t suddenly shove them into a gallery when they are not used to it and give them so many details about art that they get confused. Don’t make them think, ‘this is so big that I have no capacity to admire it.’
When it comes to his public sculptures, Khambatta applies the same principle. “I design them in such a way that they can form a link with the viewers, which include a sweeper, driver, petrol pump attendant or a millionaire,” he adds.
Mediocrity vs excellence-
However, gazing at art is not the same as having the ability to distinguish between mediocre and excellent art. “That I think depends on the individual,” says Khambatta adding that you need to have a great exposure to art to be able to distinguish between good and bad art. “What you say is true — sometimes when I go to Jehangir Art Gallery, I walk through the entrance and at one glance I come to know if the work is mediocre or not. That has come after so many years of viewing art and forming your own rules,” he shares.
And what if his art is dismissed by the uninitiated? Does that disappoint him? Khambatta quickly replies, “I expect some reaction to my work. When some clients sport a dumb expression to my work, I don’t like it. I go and tell the architect, ‘Ask him to open his mouth and tell me if he liked it or not. Don’t give me this expression’.”
Client vision vs artistic expression-
Khambatta, who is also known as ‘Iron Man’, says he is open to the client’s brief. “My forte is commissioned sculptures. Till now, clients have given me a complete free hand. Sometimes they say, ‘I don’t like figures. I like abstract.’ That’s fine with me. I can do so many things within that framework. In 2001-02, a client in Mumbai approached me with an idea for a traffic island.
He said he wanted a sculpture of dolphins there. That saved my thinking time. Now, of course, if he had demanded something ridiculous, like a Red Indian, I wouldn’t have made it.
Sometime back someone showed me the sculpture on google maps; the spot is marked as Arzan Khambatta’s dolphin island,” he grins.
The closet painter and fitness enthusiast doesn’t think that the initial briefs from clients are crippling. In fact he also prefers to be given a reasonable time frame. “You better give an artist a time frame, else his mind will wander and work will not get done,” he quips with a smile.
Khambatta believes there are small rules which are not written, but become a part of the discipline that define your work. “For instance, if I am visiting someone’s house full of art, and if I spot one painting which is half an inch off, it bothers me a lot, until it’s set right,” he says with a laugh.
The artist, who is also coming out with his pen and ink series, says he is a little cautious with colours. “I like colours, but when it comes to using them in my paintings, I don’t go beyond black, blue and white. If I have to, then I douse my sculptures in a splash. That’s a setback,” he points out.