One of the toughest mediums to work with in art, glass, is almost impossible to tame. “Glass has the final say, not me,” testifies renowned artist Atul Bakshi, whose work is currently on display in Chandigarh. Surreal abstract sculptures in vivid colours immediately demand the viewers’ attention soon as you walk into Art Portfolio, in the basement of Axis bank, Sector 9-C, Madhya Marg.
So, how did the want for sculpting something as unusual as glass come about? “My father taught me as a kid how to sculpt clay; while not my medium of choice, the desire to create something with my hands started from there. I have a particular passion for creating faces,” says he. Faces are quite prominently featured in his works on display at the moment.
Glass art consists broadly of blown glass and cast glass. Atul’s preferred way of creating is the latter, which requires him to be very deft while creating a piece; he believes he is more in touch with his medium that way. Though there is a piece titled Roundels Installation, which was created via the blown glass method. He believes art is not just slow deliberation in front of a canvas, but a quick flurry of hands, for once a glass artist pulls molten glass out of the furnace, he has only 30 seconds to create — after which the glass cannot be moulded. “I write about what kinds of sculptures I want to create in my diary in detail, because once the glass is pulled out of the furnace, I only have time to create, not deliberate.”
While he has been working with glass since 1988, he was a merchant navy man for 23 years. One wonders how such a switch happened, it just did, he says. “I got a kiln one day and just decided to see what I can do with the glass, I just went ahead and did it.” And what was the reaction of people around him? “One of my friends believed me to have become one of those starving artist kinds, citing Van Gogh as an example, but as I told him Van Gogh didn’t have the advantage of being in the merchant navy for 23 years,” he laughs.
A good sculpture, he believes, is the one that says something different to you every time you look at it, sometimes it screams at you and other times all you hear is a whisper. A particularly interesting one on display titled Matsya is based on the avatar of Vishnu in the form of a fish. “There is life inside the fish, it protects. There are comparisons in mythology, biblical in nature like Noah’s Ark,” says he.
With his studio based in Delhi and works exhibited all over the country as well as Sweden, where he was invited by the Nobel Society to display his creations alongside Bertil Vallien’s (his greatest influence), he believes people in Chandigarh to be quite discerning with an eye for art.
He has exhibited his works at Cymroza Art gallery, Mumbai and at India Habitat Centre, along with nine Swedish artists. His works are priced between Rs 85,000 to Rs 2 lakh.