An artist should respond to a city’s environment and situations, says Arzan Khambatta – Advice Eating

The dolphins on a traffic island in Worli, the rhino at Juhu Circle and flamingos near the mudflats of Sewri… The name behind several sculptures in the city, Arzan Khambatta, is an architect by trade but a sculptor of choice with a sensibility that explores the synergy between Urbanity favors life, environment and sustainability. His work can also be found in corporate homes, hotels, and in private collections, ranging in height from six inches to seventy feet. When he’s not sculpting, he teaches his craft to children from all walks of life, be it International Baccalaureate Schools or children from the slums and streets of Mumbai. He tells the Free Press Journal that he likes challenges that defy his own creativity.

What inspired you to become an artist?

I began exploring junk art visual stories in 1982, right after my grade 10 exams. At the time it was a hobby without ever thinking that one day I would make it a career. Then people noticed my work and asked if I could do it for them. At first I worked solo, but as the size increased I had to hire workers to help me carry materials. Since my first exhibition in 1993, I have had 14 solo shows and hundreds of group shows. My strength is designing for specific spaces.

What relation do you have to your art?

It’s something I absolutely love. Every day in the studio is a challenge for me and I keep it that way because I want to do new things; I like to experiment with new materials, techniques and machines. I want to engage in dynamic things and it is this curiosity that drives me and pushes me to reinvent myself.

What materials do you use?

I use iron, copper, aluminium, stainless steel and wood. I use specialized welding machines and my studio is more like an industrial workshop than an artist’s studio.

How do you determine what you charge for your art?

The size of the artwork and the materials will determine this, but the most important thing is the detailing. Even a three foot piece of art can cost more than a nine foot one.

Cast bronze is the most expensive, followed by stainless steel, brass, copper, iron and fiberglass.

How do you choose your topics?

I like it when my topics are simple, appreciative, motivating and cheerful; I don’t make sad sculptures. I like creating something that puts a smile on someone’s face and that’s always my first goal, as is the aesthetic of the area.

What role does an artist play in society?

To be able to project their vision, to be able to react to the environment and to do something in relation to that situation. It should not be religious or political, but contemporary; on a level that can be compared to the art on an international level. Artists need to break away from old-world form and create contemporary sculpture, abstract pieces that challenge people’s sensibilities. Change is the only constant; Art needs to evolve too.

What is your biggest obstacle to being an artist?

One is not yet used to seeing absolute contemporary art. I recently spoke to an artist who was making sculptures for a traffic island; he said that “you guys make contemporary sculptures that the public won’t understand”. But I don’t agree with that at all, because if you want to see how art has developed in a city or a country, it has to be progressive. No artist should say that because the public can’t appreciate something modern, so give them something old. If we use cell phones in cars today, why should we stick to the art and sculptures of old? For me, the challenge is to educate our audience and decision-makers about what kind of pieces work, and stay completely away from political or religious sculpture, as art must never be mixed with those two elements.

What do you see for yourself in the future?

I am interested in public art; I already have five sculptures on different traffic islands in Mumbai and I wish other cities would see them and give me a chance. I want to go public with my art and not limit myself to galleries.

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Published on: Saturday, May 7, 2022 10:55 PM IST

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