Pinaki Ranjan Mohanty with his Ravana sculpture
The surface of the deep waters of Chilika, Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon in Odisha, hides many complications and controversies—social, economical and ecological. The serene lagoon may have inspired many artists and poets, but only a few have gone beyond its beauty and Bhubaneswar-based ceramic sculptor and painter Pinaki Ranjan Mohanty belongs to this clan.
The 32-year-old artist, who grew up in Gopalpur near Chilika, has been observing life surrounding the lagoon and its migratory birds since childhood.For five to six months during winter, Chilika shelters lakhs of migratory birds. In a continuing series of work, the artist has shifted focus to poaching of these migratory birds.
These works, primarily paintings, and some sculptures, are a part of an exhibition ‘Celebrations’ at BOCCA, a cafe-cum-art gallery in the city. The month-long exhibition will conclude on November 1.
The subject of his ceramic sculpture ‘Ramp of Sacrifice’ is the flamingo bird. On a 40-foot ramp, Pinaki has placed thousands of small models of flamingos with four ceramic hands holding the ramp high. “Despite security cover, poachers kill many rare species every year. They do it as demand for bird meat is high among the locals and tourists. But my point is that poachers do not always kill birds for meat, but for fun too,” he says.
Similarly, in a painting titled ‘Mourning Chilika: A Witness’, he urges people to protect these birds from poachers. In another sculpture ‘Save the Soul’—made of white, grey feathers and ceramic—Pinaki gives the message of stopping poaching in the lake. “There are several issues in Chilika. Be it uncontrolled prawn farming, increasing silt load on the brackish water lake or complicated fishing rights, decrease in salinity and loss of biodiversity. While the beauty of Chilika is much talked about, its problems are rarely discussed,” says the artist, who is an alumnus of Utkal University of Culture and a state youth awardee (2010).
As far as mediums are concerned, his oeuvre does not limit him to any material or style. “I love to experiment with different materials, but methodology remains the same,” he says.Heritage spots in and around Chilika are also one of his focus subjects. In a 30x24x18 cm sculpture titled ‘Breakfast Bunglow’—it is made using cement and corals—he depicts the crumbling heritage bungalow on the Breakfast Island of Chilika.
He also works on e-waste to create sculptures. And his latest creation is a 12-foot high sculpture of Ravana that has been installed at Jaydev Vihar. The installation made from the parts of discarded laptops and desktops was done in association with the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation. This project of MC is aimed at beautifying the Smart City with eco-friendly sculptures and paintings.When Pinaki is not working on this project, he can be found showcasing his hard-hitting work at art festivals inside and outside the state.