Exhibition: Jagannath Panda’s work reflects his relationship with cities
Jagannath Panda returns to exhibiting after an almost eight -year hiatusart and culture Updated: Sep 02, 2017 11:56 IST
It’s perhaps providence that Jagannath Panda’s return to exhibiting after an almost eight-year hiatus coincided with the worst rains in Mumbai since the floods of 2005. The inference from both is the same – an old lesson about sustainable, measured development will be pushed aside, yet again. In his latest solo show, Crystal Cities, at the Vadehra Art Gallery, Panda brings back the surreal and damning power of his alchemic study of man and his relationship with the city.
Crystal Cities begins with a couple of giant multi-media works titled ‘Wonderland’ through which Panda points to the awe one feels when he or she first encounters the metropolis. “I came to Delhi for the first time in 1989. Back then I couldn’t speak any of the languages [spoken] here,” he says. “It was aggressive and I was an outsider. But still, to me, the city immediately felt like a place of opportunity. And it has been so ever since,” he says.
Panda, who was born in Bhubaneswar in 1970, shifted to Delhi in 1995, where he continues to work and find inspiration till today. But his own personal journey, his relationship with the city in particular, has mirrored his aesthetic. “I did not know the language. I did not know the people. The ’90s were also a time when lots of artists like me were migrating to Delhi, hoping to make it. We were a community within this larger community. And although I was an outsider on the surface, we found something common underneath,” Panda says.
His work is largely a play on dichotomies – urban-rural, living-dead, natural-unnatural, centre-periphery. “Each city has human energy and activity. But it is being driven to the boundaries. I regularly try to explore these subjects, centre or boundary, urban or rural,” he says.
Crystal Cities is quite literally a mixture, both in terms of the larger ideas and in terms of specific works. From sculptures to giant pieces made from paper mache and fabric to minuscule collages of busy city activity, Panda borrows from everyday life, to create everyday life, but with perspective-altering, surreal treatment.
Perhaps the most curious characteristic of Panda’s work over the years has been the appearance of birds and animals. They appear here as well, often drawn in full, crystalline, original forms. “I employ birds and animals as witnesses; voiceless, yet hugely significant to the work through both, their presence or absence. They humanise the context, which is ironic,” Panda says. The irony here is of course that sanctuary is now a word associated only with animals.
From broken toys, to food items to an old 50 rupee note, the stories cut across each other throughout his work. “A piece of iron mined in Odisha has its own story when it becomes part of a huge mega-structure in Delhi. Similarly, the toys we use; the toxicity level of most of these is alarming. We used to have wooden toys before. But today it is a whole different story,” he adds.
At this point one can only wonder if Panda’s curious, multi-layered creations will find place in the ‘smart cities’ of tomorrow. “I don’t know. I don’t think a city can exist without a place for culture. What it is it without a contemporary museum, the people’s museum? But for some reason, from Mumbai to these new city projects, I always find that the wrong people are in charge of the right things,” he says. Does he at least feel at home now in Delhi? “No way, I’m still on my journey. I’m still an outsider.”
WHAT: Exhibition of Jagannath Panda’s artwork.
WHEN: 11am-7pm, till October 29.
WHERE: Vadhera Art Gallery, D-53, Defence Colony. Call: 011-46103550
Nearest Metro Station: Moolchand