His ‘vision’ during the formative years made him the artist he is today. Narayan Sinha, an upcoming sculptor from Nalhati, West Bengal, visualised deities and their ornaments in scrap and metal waste as a child. Narayan, whose Debi, a series of sculptures and other works is on display at Gallery Art Alive in Gurgaon, was only six when a car jack at a factory “appeared” like Vishwakarma, the deity, the divine architect to him. He says, “People would laugh at me as I went about collecting broken telephones, nuts and bolts, bells, locks and metal waste from automobiles to create something. I collected material while travelling in the later years. The love for junk turned into an obsession.”
After several years of collecting scrap material, making sketches, learning drawing, painting, sculpting and bronze casting, Narayan turned into an artist who would provoke the senses of some well-known veterans. He even provided his works to filmmaker, actor, thinker and director late Rituparno Ghosh for his last film project, Satyanweshi. He says, “Rituda even wore jewellery prepared by me. He passed away too soon. We weren’t friends but he liked my work. The first time I went to his place was during breakfast. He refused to let me pick up my dirty dishes. He picked them. Such was Rituda.”
Narayan’s father worked in a factory that produced crushers. “I would accompany my father to the factory and indulge with the metal wastes and objects. At home I shared the space with my sisters and mother. My world was divided between their affection and a hard and grey world of metal waste.”
Narayan’s Debi is a body of feminine pride. She is an audacious and austere woman adorned in colour—the colour, not of synthetic paint—but that of the metals molten and welded together. “I don’t colour my works. Nature gives every surface a different tone during different times of the day. That’s what I call natural colour.”
The huge eyes, the maternal instincts, the ferocity towards the oppressor expressed on her face are untouched and immaculate. The conventional motherly and curvaceous lilt to her body has been transformed and taken over by a linear and static pomposity of metals in Narayan’s depiction. She stands adorned in ornaments and garments that become extensions of her self-sufficient and sordid self. The palms, fingers and their mudras are left to a viewer’s imagination in this surreal blend of figure and abstraction. The Debi’s symbolic vehicle, the lion in Narayan’s work, looks like an evolving beast from the Iron Age with a timid roar. Narayan’s Debi was born in and out of Bengal and the puja pandals in Nalhati. Here, he, as a boy would see the Debi being sculpted and decorated by local artisans, her big eyes shaped beautifully from dawn to dusk by fine hands. He says, “My Debi is not a religious manifestation. She is the symbol of empowerment, made so by the male deities like Vishnu and Shiva. Today women are being subjected to atrocities and becoming victims of violence. The Debi is not the form or the component alone in my art. She is a strong figure who can protect herself and the entire universe with her energy.” Narayan is quick at demystifying his manifestation of the Debi, and himself. “I have not been to an arts college ever. I have learnt from different artists and gurus and even contemporaries who have studied at Santiniketan. It has done me good. I don’t feel the lack of a formal degree in arts,” he adds.
For us, hearing veteran artist Madhvi Parekh and Narayan on their manifestations of the “Devi” and “Debi” (the goddess and the series), within a month’s time were sort of, divine intervention. Parekh, who was here last month with her series of reverse painting on Biblical Tales leaves you boggled with her fine balance in religiosity, rituals, colours and form when she nostalgically evokes the image of Devi, the goddess, as seen in her state Gujarat, the vibrant Navratra celebrations there and Parekh’s own artistic journey and practice. Her relationship with the Devi is that of a girl’s, a woman’s and of the artist’s who religiously seeks intellectual freedom, distancing herself a bit from devotion. Narayan’s form and treatment and Parekh’s are as similar as different and diverse they appear in dimensions, regionality and expression. Incidentally, Narayan, like world-renowned Parekh, is a self-taught artist. Divine.