Adwaita Gadanayak’s sculptures carry a heavy scent of spirituality and culture, which he associates with his upbringing amidst nature in Odisha. The unabashedly humble sculptor, who is the Director General of
National Gallery of Modern Art, has created the National Police Memorial’s central structure. Back in his hometown, which is in the heart of a jungle in Dhenkanal, he was just another man who found shape and form in all elements of nature.
Dunking in water, climbing trees and gazing at the wildlife seated atop stone towers were common childhood memories for him. “We don’t do idol worship. My mother prays to trees, rivers and plants, and having grown up in such an environment, everything to me looked like a sculpture,” he reminisces.
Talking about stones, he narrates, “Did you know every layer of stone has a history associated with it?”
He explains that there are “male and female stones”, and they can be differentiated through texture, sound and other techniques. Male sculptures are made with female stones since these are strong and create a linear sound, thus making it easy to carve sculptures that don’t need heavy ornamentation, he says.
Gadanayak cites examples of how people interact with stones in different countries. “In Mecca, pilgrims worship the black stone, also known as the Kaaba stone. In Jerusalem, Jews talk and cry to the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall,” he says adding, “Back in Odisha, pilgrims embrace the Garuda statue in Puri Jagannath Temple. Such is the power of stones. They carry our message to the Supreme Being.”
Gadanayak pursued his interest in art by joining the BK College of Arts and Crafts, Bhubaneswar and completed his education at the Slade School of Fine Arts, London.“When I returned to India, I realised that the market was ruled by the mafia and you gain recognition largely through money, fame and knowing the right people. In fact, I never entered a gallery or did art show before this,” he confesses.
Talking about his latest masterpiece — the National Police Memorial— Gadnayak says, “There was already a monument erected in the place where the National Police Memorial exists today. There was controversy around it, hence a call was taken to replace it.”Gadanayak was selected among several artists who were invited to submit blueprints for the project. His natural instinct was to build something from stone since they are “oldest beings in this planet”. The memorial was inaugurated along with a museum on the October 21, which is marked as the Police Commemoration Day.
The memorial stands as a testimony to the valour and service of India’s police forces. “It is a holy abode for families who visit the memorial. Some people wonder what the stone depicts but if you observe, it looks different from every angle. Some places look polished, some look raw. It creates an illusion,”