Hurun Indian Art List ranks Dhananjay Singh in one of the top 50 Indian artists’ list, preceding Bose Krishnamachari and Sudarshan Shetty. The layered meanings in his sculptures bring out many contradictory propositions—the shimmering and vivacious earthly tones of gold and copper homogeneously merged with the rugged surfaces, evoking melancholic feelings. Although the connectivity is evident and self-explanatory in the visual, it is not what we think it is. They are, according to Dhananjay, frozen transitory phases. It is about freezing the moment of movement.
With an inquisitive mind, I investigate Dhananjay Singh’s sculptures, not only at India Art Fair, which I was simply amused by but also in general about his oeuvre. Read on to learn about morphic representations by the artist who shares about his works with great humility.
AA: Could you elaborate on your technique and work procedure in manoeuvring large assemblies?
DS: During my college, I learned about my inclination towards the direct process of making sculpture. Initially, I practised in stone and plaster and later I began to move towards metal techniques. I realised metal is a suitable medium for my idea to represent duality in a particular form. I wanted to merge solidity with a transparent structure.
I collect and try with various material forms. This helps to shape my thoughts more precisely. In the year 2000, I came across metal-wires, which has eventually happened to be the most suitable material for my works. It helped me to create a form that compulsively resembles the tree.
I am inspired by nature and thus try to imitate natural laws of creation. Observing, both animate and inanimate, natural forms I learned that the virtue of function dictates qualities of form. The marks of formative processes deliver uniqueness to these structures.
So, selecting Bronze, Copper or Stainless steel is not a random choice rather a reasonable consideration. Mostly, I weld copper or stainless steel with bronze and also sometimes to provide strength to soft structures of copper wire. Welding marks has been useful to derive a pattern, which shows a kind of organic growth. Also, the colour change during welding adds a character, which I leave it, as it is, to build a relative character.
Since the last two years, I had been interested to work on a monumental outdoor sculpture where employing fine wires was not suitable, structurally. And, I was trying to find a way to improve my technique. I tried metal sheets to make bronchial form but couldn’t find the desired fluidity and it was difficult to eliminate their geometrical shape. After two years of dedicated experimenting, I finally came upon these techniques through thicker stainless steel wires. I keep assembling the parts in my big artworks until I don’t feel any scope of further enhancement.
“I am not always conscious of idea or content. And, I don’t feel a need to find a story behind every work. I believe art is a dialogue between an artist and the material. Your inner-thoughts transfer in your material with your touch, consciously or subconsciously. An artist realises it when it manifests in a material form.”
AA: There is a repetitive network of tendrils in the majority of your sculptures. The tree or this network shoots from the head of the body in your works. What is your context apart from the metaphorical interconnectivity?
DS: It shows a transition from one form to another, presenting a similarity between zoological and botanical form. I believe contradicting characters are omnipresent. They have always interested me, which I depict in my ghostly structures. These tendrils are in a frozen moment of transition.
I have been in direct contact with plant life since childhood. Hence, the tree of life is my source of inspiration. They are like mirrors to introspect. And, I look up to them to resolve my queries and achieve qualitative solutions. I keep attempting to depict an interrelationship of the man with nature in a myriad of ways.
AA: I read in one of your interviews, you came across this metal medium when you had visited Australia. What did you work during your college years?
DS: I did experiments in bronze casting over there. I helped the students every week in these metal processes, which triggered my interest. I found it very interesting that students were conscious of their individuality in approach. And, I was mesmerised by the uniqueness of work they were doing in all the art-streams. Mostly, I was determinedly experimenting in metal wire, which I had started during my post-graduation in Baroda.
“Describing an artwork seems childish to me. It is self-realisation; a dialogue captured in material form. In the same way, a viewer can experience it. You can’t transfer experience in words.”
Dhananjay believes in working spontaneously and not with a fixed objective. Just like any other professional, he chooses the same business hours to ideate, analyse and create his breathtaking imageries. Not only his complex and demanding work-ethics make it possible but also his support of approximately ten technicians assist in realising monumental expressions at his studio.
AA: Are these heads self-portraits narrating a stream of thoughts in the making?
DS: I see myself as a spectator who is experiencing something or have merged with the scene itself. I made self-portraits with no particular intentions. It is easy to be a model for yourself. Sometimes an idea sparks my imaginative thinking to find suitable making process or it is the process that initiates the idea. It’s an ongoing process that continues to feed each other, which also nourishes an artist’s language.
AA: How do you feel being in the top 50 artists of India?
DS: It is a data-based ranking statistics. Being in top 50 certainly makes me happy for some time but every setup or firm or an organisation has its own method to examine and prepare a list. In India, there is still no uniform approach to recognise an artist for their individuality and long studio practice. People love to see circus where so many artists keep coming with new tricks and game to amuse collectors. Hence, accordingly, this ranking keeps changing rapidly, which conclusively creates confusion.
“After getting many awards and scholarships or recognition, I have finally stopped applying for these. I feel the time has come to look inwardly.”