NEW DELHI: Sometimes it’s crude imperfection that makes things characteristically fetching. In their lack of uniformity, lies individuality. Cement as an art medium, has not yet been exploited in its artistic splendour, but its versatility is unstinting. Working with the medium has proven to be an intense and unyielding activity, but with a little bit of patience and a lot of imagination, it can transform itself into a bespoke master medium.
In a design space thronged with metal, stone and wood, things made of cement are a rarity. Our interest in the medium bought us to designers Iti Tyagi and Somesh Singh, who make contemporary cement products for functional and aesthetic purposes.
The works we present to you in this story will be showcased at India Habitat Centre, as part of an exhibition titled, Craft Béton – Cement. Reimagined. Cement is one of the oldest building materials, and over time, its purpose has evolved to a dynamic one.It entered the art space with scepticism but its dubious reputation soon turned into universal admiration. Designers like Tyagi and Singh are new generation promoters of the medium, who believe in its protean orientation. “I think it’s nice to use something green around us. People are afraid of the fact that cement products will break, and then they use glass and ceramic which breaks too. So, why not cement?,” says Tyagi, who has crafted a truly unique table called Audrey as part of the exhibition.
Inspired by the iconic Hollywood actress Audrey Hepburn’s quote—‘Paris is a good idea’, this piece is a delicate tale told in the French Louis XV Style, says the designer. Dalmia Bharat green cement company has joined hands with the Center for this exhibition. It is being held under the banner of Habitat Photosphere, India Habitat Centre’s year-long multi-disciplinary arts festival on sustainable development, the curator for which is Dr Alka Pande.
There is a kind of imperfection in this medium and it’s as though, in its flaws, lie its attractiveness. “Imperfection is the reality, and perfection exist as a utopian context,” says Singh who calls the medium a very difficult one. That’s primarily because cement behaves differently in different conditions and the results vary.
Having said that, this limitation works wonderfully well in its advantage too. You get a range of different textures and surfaces, and each product looks different from the other. “I value imperfection as it results in explorations, giving birth to new ideas which one may not have thought of. Serendipity is the process through which most of my works are achieved. Perfection to me doesn’t exist,” he says. Melissa, a cement honey-bee wall installation executed by him for the show, draws inspiration from the Gond art of artist Bhajju Shyam. It’s for those who like art with a sweet twist, he says.
Traditional craft forms, folk and tribal, have been his inspiration because of their linkages with nature, and Gond is a primary one. “This tribal community has a great symbiotic relationship with nature, and they understand the language of animals, birds and plants. On his part, Shyam reached a new milestone as he has contemporaried the tribal forms,” he says, pointing to the artist’s London Jungle Book that has created a new genre of work, which has contemporary sensibilities with tribal forms, colours and strokes.
Cement has been imagined in the most ingenious ways by all the artists participating in the exhibit. You’ll find bookends by designer Cynthia Rodriguez, wall lamp by Miroslaw Baca, besides clocks, book holders and other functional pieces for walls, floors and bathrooms.
With cement methods evolving, there is good news for artists, as more of them can make this medium their playground for artistic escapades.
Good to know: August 7- 12, at Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, from 10 am to 8 pm.