Carved in sand
He is simple and humble. That is what strikes you when you see Sudarsan Pattnaik, master sand sculptor, get messy in the sand with children who are learning the art at an event organised by the Blue Orange Young Parents organisation in the city.
“I get many invites to come to Mumbai,” says the sculptor from Puri, “but I came for this because it involves kids.” The winner of the International Sand Sculpture Championship 2005 in Berlin clearly loves teaching kids.
His winning entry at Berlin had the thread of peace running through it — a 25-foot high sculpture of Mahatma Gandhi with the three monkeys. Ten countries were selected to participate in the championship and each was given 56 hours — five days — to finish its sculpture.
The 29-year-old is one of the youngest winners of the award. He met President APJ Abdul Kalam after the win, “for 30 minutes” and the President commended him on his achievement.
But his cynicism comes to the fore when he says, “Even though I have received so much international recognition, having participated in 27 events worldwide, it is only recently that I was given a national youth award by the Union ministry of youth and sports.” He received the award in Patna.
His famous black sand sculpture from the Yamuna, the Taj Mahal structure, was made keeping in mind that Shah Jehan had a dream 350 years ago of making the Taj in black.
“All my works are new and go with current topics,” he says.
Since his art is temporary in nature, what is it that keeps him going? Pattnaik said his creations generate interest mainly due to their temporary nature. It is like a sport — it is there for that point of time and therefore generates interest. Or like music, where the original performance has an atmosphere that exists only for that moment.
About his religious leanings, considering that most of his subjects are the gods, he says, “I consider all religions the same. I have made a statue of Jesus Christ in Puri and Buddha on the Silk Road in China that won an award.” Some of his most recent works have included themes like HIV awareness and an environment awareness campaign on turtles.
Himself a follower of Lord Jagannath, he says, “It is his blessings that have got me this far.” Sudarsan started a school in Puri called Golden Sand Art Institute, 10 years ago. “Children from every age group come to learn here. It takes five to seven days to learn the art.”
A fan of Amitabh Bachchan, he says when the star was hospitalised recently, he made a five-foot high structure of the Big B in front of the Sun temple in Konark. It was made in the hope that if it pleased the Sun god, Bachchan would get well quickly.
A documentary on Pattnaik and his creations is in the works by an American group.
Awards or not, the man from Puri continues to work magic with sand and water and his bare hands. All that keeps him going is simple passion.