Using Sculptures to Trigger Innovation - Nirma University takes the Majestic Leap of Art

How 21 sculptors are working on a tough deadline of 20 days to carve 26 monumental sculptures to give shape to the vision of the University to let students seek inspiration in Art. Read how this project, unprecedented in many ways, may renew societal interest in public art.

With online shopping becoming a daily ritual, well almost, I often end up adding unintended things to my cart. The most recent one being a Rubik Cube. As it arrived in the office, discussions ensued, and going by the tradition of CY office, delving deep into anything we put our hand onto, is inevitable. Curiosity about the invention of Rubik Cube led to the discovery that the brain behind the invention was a Hungarian sculptor and Professor of Architecture Erno Rubik. While I was still absorbing this amazement, popped up the email of my editor, asking me to travel 15kms far to hunt down a story. Call it serendipity, call it co-incidence the story I ended up to unravel is of the most path breaking sculpture project, undertaken in Gujarat since long. If Erno Rubik, the sculptor created a ‘magic’ cube; here we have a score of sculptors creating monumental pieces, to add ‘magic’ to the life of students at varsity.

The plot of the story is set in Nirma University, among Gujarat’s top-ranked academic Institution, known for its penchant for quality in education. The key narrators of the path-breaking story are curators Surya Goswami and Atul Padia. Their humble thought of adding aesthetics to the university was lapped up by the University administrators and they backed it up with a scale to make aesthetics accessible to all its students. Nirma that has entered the faculties of aesthetics by establishing the Institute of Planning and the Institute of Architecture, see a larger impact of the massive art exercise. Vice President of Nirma University, KK Patel shares his vision by saying, “Students need not learn everything within the classrooms, They need specific ambience and that particular ambience can be provided by beautiful sculptures.” Based on the theme of Education and Society the curators were commissioned to realise this majestic dream.

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Surya Goswami is a senior sculptor, who has created scores of master pieces in his life time. Atul Padia, an independent Visual Artist, is an active name in Gujarat’s Fine arts circuit. Goswami is more popular for his Art Residency in the Dangs (South Gujarat). Dangs is a less developed region, that is rich with natural and cultural resources. Goswami’s is the rare residency that lets creators remain secluded and at the same time experience tribal life from close quarters.

Goswami and Padia started mobilising dexterous sculptors from 6 different states of India. They started traversing mines in search of right raw materials and picked rocks of 8 different types for carving them into humongous sculptures. The workshop began on June 8, 2017, with more than 21 participants and 25 helpers equipped all the necessary rasps and rifflers and ended on June 28, 2017, with hard rock converted into artistic masterpieces.

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On my visit to ground zero, chisels were getting hammered on amorphous boulders, and in the midst of all the thumping noise, I felt the freedom brimming in artists’ aesthetics. Each sculpture is distinct and draws unique perspective on academics within its form. The institute provided all the basic set up to ensure that the sculptors get a stimulating atmosphere to work in. Sunil Kumar, a sculptor from Varansi shared, “The atmosphere of this workshop converted the meticulous job into a fun filled experience. I have been sculpting for eight years, and have attended numerous art camps, but this one is certainly one of a kind.” Renu Bala, a sculptor from Punjab, showcased the essential aspect of family within her sculpture; Mumbai artist Raj Nandini depicted a dew drop on a lotus, which showcases the importance of a student at the place where he/she is stationed. Vipul Raval, a renowned sculptor of Ahmedabad, chiselled a minimalist sculpture displaying a pile of books. Nanubhai Rathva, a professor at Faculty of Fine Arts, MS University, Baroda, carved the circle of education beautifully. Each sculpture displayed the life story and geographic influence of the designer, which was miraculous and unique.

The 20 days camp has produced sculptures 10-20 ft high and curators Surya Goswami and Atul Padia shared their vision saying, “We wish to take this concept to many other institutes, it would be great if every educational institute of Gujarat gives prominence to aesthetics on its campus.” Goswami extended the thought saying, “In Europe it is common to see a bust or a sculpture at almost every public place and institute, I wish to dedicate my skill and time in making similar influencing contributions to the landscape of Gujarat.”

This is a massive vision, one that has the potential to go beyond the boundaries of the Nirma University. It certainly will trigger the innovation in their students, but also will foster Art patronship in the region. The administration of NU is yet to finalise on organising a public exhibition of these artworks, and in case even if they drop the idea of arranging a formal art show, do not hesitate to knock the institutes door to peek a look of these magnum opuses.

Photographs : Marmik Shah

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