“Stainless steel is a medium that I enjoy working with even though it is very demanding and unforgiving. Unlike bronze that may be melted and recast and reused, in stainless steel, when one makes a mistake, one usually has to junk the entire piece and start afresh,” said Shovin Bhattacharjee, an artist whose current exhibition titled ‘Between Body and Imagination, is on view till March 10 at Dhoomimal Gallery.
Shovin works with a selected team of technicians to create his larger sculptural pieces. Like most sculptors, he usually creates the sculptural piece as a small-sized maquette and then works on the large piece overseeing the technicalities of it with his team.
The sculptural works and installations usually capture the artist’s self-portrait interacting with the cuboid structures that are a metaphor for the city. Often, he is seen balancing out the structures in different compositions, literally ‘taking the weight of the city’ upon his shoulders.
Shovin’s paintings are primarily created in acrylic and charcoal on canvas. Thematically they deal with animal life engaging with urbanity. For his recent series, he also uses the trope of mirror imagery where the image of the tiger, leopard, zebra, or civet cat is split into two beings located on either side of the canvas with the sprawling city between them.
In another work, he humorously uses the self as an onlooker, where a tiny image of the self is balanced on a large eyeball (that may also serve as a metaphor for the world) holding a pair of binoculars for viewing.
Another image of the self balances the eyeball from the bottom. Dramatically all he sees, reflected back in the eye, are the rows and rows of buildings and this serves as his humorous yet dark warning of our overpopulated concrete cities.
Hailing from the ‘Abode of Clouds’, Shillong, the picturesque hill station artist Shovin Bhattacharjee had a bit of a ‘culture shock’ when he moved to New Delhi in early 2003, to settle in the metropolis.
“I had never seen so many towering buildings and the way the city was crowded with people, busy with life, in every corner of these structures, made me feel a bit overwhelmed,” recalls the artist. “I was both attracted and repelled by it,” he adds.
However, the metaphor of the sky-scraper as seen from a birds-eye-view became a recurring motif in his artwork, and now one associates it with his artistic lexicon. He often organizes these cuboid structures in a spherical shape that then becomes a metaphor for the world, since he plays with the dark prophecy that the world would soon be covered by buildings and much of nature would disappear.
He does however hope, like the family of birds that built a nest at the top of one of his large outdoor sculptures, that ‘nature finds a way to co-exist’, with this metallic and concrete world.
Shovin is an artist who expresses himself across mediums and metaphors, whether it is his sculptures, installations, paintings, or even his digital work that manifest these days as popular NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) which he began creating long before it became a craze as it is today.
While speaking about his Digital works, from which he creates NFTs, Shovin indicates that creating digital work takes as much effort and dedication as it does to paint or sculpt.
“I began working in a digital format with my camera and computer, as early as 2002, even before I moved to New Delhi,” avers the artist. There was this misrepresentation that digital artwork is just about cut and paste, but I think that is changing now. People are beginning to understand that it takes as much creativity to create a digital image, whether it is from a photograph or works that you have made in 3-D in photoshop.