Listen to 'Echoes of Innocence' in Nayana Soparkar's solo sculpture show

Nayana Soparkar’s ‘Echoes of Innocence’, her solo sculpture show, is a delightful tribute to the joy and innocence of childhood. The show will have on display 100 clay sculptures, which are akin to a moving anthology of childhood memories.  In all probability, the show will fill you with nostalgia and leave you with a wide smile that will be difficult to wear off. All of this comes from a self-taught artist whose journey in arts is delightfully unconventional.

Any vocation if pursued with unconditional commitment, can turn into a character building experience, a yatra, as we like to put it. Nayana Soparkar’s journey from being a Microbiology graduate to an admired sculptor is a wonderful testament of passion, dedication and commitment. Soparkar’s journey into arts is rather unconventional. Over a chat, she shared with a smile, “As a school going child, I performed poorly in arts. I was bright otherwise and scored well overall, but back then, I didn’t have any special preference for creative subjects.”  However, her attitude to pursue excellence sowed the seed of taking up arts and excelling in it. Much later in her life, in an unplanned way, the pursuit for arts emerged and it still sustains strongly, quite longer than she herself would have expected in her young age.

The birth of an artist

“Sculpting connects me to the world and allows me to express myself and translate what I see and feel into a tangible form.” – Nayana Soparkar

Nine years after her graduation, in 1985, she took up the chisel in her hand, and entered the wondrous world of arts. By this time, Soparkar a mother of three was neck deep in domestic responsibilities. The seed that was sown very early in her life, blossomed, and she just felt the need to pursue arts, for her own sake. She started visiting art shows all around, and gained insights by virtue of observation. During this period, she got in touch with Shri KD Parmar, Head of Department of Sculpting in Sheth CN College of Fine Arts, Ahmedabad. His mentorship further enhanced her perspectives and thus began her adventure in sculpting. She experimented with diverse mediums such as fibre, plaster of Paris, clay, wood, paper clay and marble to hone her skills. She pursued relentlessly, and persisted patiently for more than a decade, to meet her own standards of excellence, before she chose to showcase her artworks to the world. In 2001-2002, she exhibited her first solo sculpture show at the famed Amdavad ni Gufa. Aptly titled, ‘3D – Determination, Dedication and Devotion’ the show consisted sculptures that were an expression of her efforts to learn and being able to ‘express’ through arts. The show was well received and was critically acclaimed for its beauty and dramatic intensity. She received her first major recognition from Indian Fine Arts and Craft Society (IACS) for her sculpture titled ‘Tired Tourist’, in 2002-03. With this Soparkar’s style of sculpting – of being able to see beauty in the ordinary – had arrived; and she has never looked back since. Her sculptures have been selected by Gujarat State Lalit Kala Akademi, for state-sponsored shows in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 & 2011. She also showcased her work “Kite Runner” in the show “Amdavad etle Amdavad“, curated by Soparkar herself, the show featured artworks by various artists inspired by the city of Ahmedabad.

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Mantra Art Gallery, photo credit: India Today

The making of a Gallerist

In the early part of the first decade of the new millenia, Soparkar travelled down under to New Zealand. She had an opportunity to view art there, this impacted her deeply. She realised the significance of making larger contributions to the art fraternity, apart from her work as an artist. She felt that there is lot in her to give, and this became a turning point in her life and career. This urge led to the foundation of Mantra Art Gallery in Ahmedabad, in 2006. The goal of the gallery was to make art more accessible for people and curating shows that entertain people along with generating aesthetic sensibilities within them. Her efforts were well received, and she was honoured as the Best Entrepreneur in the Arts category by Gujarat Chamber of Commerce & Industry. Soparkar has successfully done a lot of activity around arts – exhibitions, talks, workshops and a lot more. In the last decade, Soparkar has presented and curated more than 40 art shows including veteran artists like KS Radhakrishnan, The Bendre Family Show, Rini Dhumal among others. She also evolved her own innovative subjects to present art, and curated popular art shows like the ‘Ahmedabad etle Ahmedabad’ – group show with 70 artists, ‘Chhota Bat Badda Score‘ – group show with 275 participants and ‘Chhoti Rickshaw Baddi Savari’ – group show with 91 members painting on tiny rickshaws. It is during this period that her interactions with KS Radhakrishnan, a master sculptor known for his work based upon Hindu mythology, further strengthened her thought process as an artist and a presenter. Soparkar, today is known for generating art from unconventional objects that often surprise by stirring up a host of feelings.

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Nayana Soparkar at the shows curated by her.

The ‘happy’ art of Nayana Soparkar

“I want my art to be able to make people smile, feel happy; there are enough challenges in everyone’s life, let art be a space that evokes pleasantness” – Nayana Soparkar

Soparkar’s major amount of work is her personal enquiry into the idea of ‘happiness’. She derives inspiration from ordinary objects in her surrounding and translates them into art, these sculptures express the emotion that she has experienced with that object. In her art, her effort is focused to share her experience and not about presenting any ideology, and maybe that is why they possess an inherent likability and pleasantness. She surrenders her art to her experience. She explores the dimensions of form, texture, colour, space, time and utilises them to transfer her experience to the viewer. Though self-taught, Soparkar has successfully dealt with the form in her work. Her figures are simple, yet evocative. Her longtime friend and associate, aesthete Bina Nanavaty shares, “She has innate strength to depict speed, movement and expressions in her figures. Her sculptures stand for what she has perceived from a situation.”

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Clay sculptures from Echoes of Innocence show

A glance over any of her work and one realises how keen observer of life she is. No wonder most of her ideas emanate from ‘nothings’ that most of us miss in our daily routines. Take for example her last exhibition  ‘Happy Moments of Life’, back in 2009, where she sculpted the happy moments from her memory to come out as an artistic expression. Now, after a gap of nearly a decade, Soparkar is ready to showcase her new work with the show ‘Echoes of Innocence‘. During this period Soparkar graduated to being a grandmother, and these experience, compelled her to revisit childhood and innocence. I had the good fortune of being privy to lot of the work that will be displayed at the upcoming show, and to me Soparkar has been able to touch the child within her, and bring it out in the form of vivid and vivacious clay forms, which truly is an echo of the innocence inside each one of us.

“Her work is delightful and bear an inherent cheerfulness”, shares Giriraj Kadia, curator of the upcoming show. The palm-sized figures are nostalgic and playful in nature. They are depictions of what Soparkar has observed in children around her and manifestations of her own experiences as a child. The collection has 100 sculptures, which is a moving tribute to the joy and innocence of childhood. Blissful moments like a mother applying oil on her daughter’s head, a chubby & jolly washerman carrying a bag full of clothes on his scooter or four friends playing on a big water pipe – Soparkar breathes life into this scenes with her masterful clay work. The figures are devoid of ‘perfection’, in terms of its body type and skin tone. Soparkar says, “black is just a colour and round is just a shape. Let’s feel joyous with what we have.” In trying to explore happiness,  Soparkar purposefully comments on society’s unreal definition of beauty and in doing so, creates art that soars with joy and gaiety. She took an entire year to create art for this show. A lot of her time went in choosing the right medium. She eventually selected the Japanese non-toxic clay as the medium, the lightweight medium imparts a childlike liveliness to her art. Also the medium is nearly unbreakable which makes it more accessible to children. Through the show Soparkar also aims to raise awareness about the needs of specially-abled children and has pledged all receipts from the show towards the cause.

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The 10-day show beginning on November 23, 2018 will be held at 079 Stories and will continue till December 2, 2018. Soparkar shall also be putting up an art installation at the fourth edition of Art e’ fair at Rajpath Club.

In Soparkar’s story, we see how simple virtues like self-drive and perseverance can help one achieve the unthinkable and that art is not necessarily a function of training but a result of keen observation.

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