Under the slanting rays of the afternoon sun, a 16-feet tall breathtaking sculpture of a ‘Haryanvi Tau’ glistens in Gopal Namjoshi’s open-air studio in Gurugram. Made entirely out of 300 kg of metal scraps, the sculpture is one of Namjoshi’s latest and most refined installations. For an everyday art connoisseur, metal scraps collected from junkyards might seem like an unusual medium for art. But the maverick sculptor has been upcycling metal waste into beautiful installations for the past nine years.
In his 25 years of career as an artist, Jaipur-born Namjoshi has experimented with a wide variety of media – ranging from oil on canvas to mixed murals to plastic waste. But, it is metal scraps that have appealed the most to him artistically. Though he himself shies away from admitting it, Namjoshi had been one of the trendsetters in India in creating sculpture from metal waste, which at present is a vocation practised by more than 100 artists across the country.
Speaking to The Better India, Namjoshi shares how metal scraps came into his life rather accidentally and has reigned in his art ever since.
It all started with a man repairing a scooter
Around 10 years back, when Namjoshi was still a resident of Jaipur, he was once sitting on the roadside when a man repairing a scooter caught his eyes. “I noticed how many metal parts were being thrown away by him as scrap. When I inquired about it, he said that these can easily be welded into other machinery parts.”
The idea stuck with him but it was not until a while later that he started exploring the domain of metal scraps in art.
By that time, Namjoshi had had over a hundred murals installed in places all over India. He was also working with watercolour and oil. At one point, he got worried about how the Western culture of ‘use & throw’ is wreaking havoc on our environment. The trend was also contagious among Asians who were traditionally more conservative in their material usage.
Drawing inspiration from other artists, Namjoshi set out on his mission to upcycle waste into art. One of his most appreciated works included an 85 feet tall tree made out of waste like tissue paper, plastic, thermocol and vinyl. The tree was designed in such a way that the viewers can interact with it.
“It received tremendous acclaim but at the same time, some people created nuisances to ruin the experience for others. Besides, it was after that work that I figured plastic was not appealing to me as an artistic medium. That’s when I switched to metal scraps,” informs Namjoshi.
Revisiting pleasant memories with junk metal
One of his very first works with metal was the Peacock series. “Back in Jaipur, peacocks were regular visitors to our home. My mom and I used to feed them also. I decided to revisit that memory with this sculpture.”
The resplendent peacock sculpture made out of rusted iron waste depicted the essence of co-existence and ecological conservation.
Since then, Namjoshi has created over 140 metal sculptures in all shapes and sizes. Near Damdama lake of Haryana, he has created a set of 50 wildlife sculptures, depicting the living kingdom in its full glory. The work has been highly appreciated and also fetched Namjoshi an international award for green art and architecture.
“It’s great to see so many artists taking up metal as a medium”
His metal sculptures adorn leading luxury hotels in Delhi, Mumbai and other cities as well as the living rooms of many, including Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli’s residence.
“When I started working with metal scraps, people were very surprised as such a concept was not that well-known in India before. I cherish the fact that now so many artists are recycling such junk as a medium.”
Namjoshi collects his scrap metals mostly from small and medium vendors. “I do not cut or distort the pieces in any way, rather I prefer to use them as they were available. That is why I prefer smaller vendors where I can pick and choose scraps according to my liking. I generally avoid visiting large-scale scrap sellers where I have to find suitable pieces from a huge mountain of junk.”
In his sprawling 500 sq. m. studio in Gurugram, Namjoshi works with a team of four who help him with welding, transportation and other additional work.
For the veteran sculptor, the key to art lies in the essence of coexistence. “If you wish to coexist in peace with everything around you, it is better to practise conservation by yourself. You must also learn to modify and make peace with everything,” he advises.
Find out more about his beautiful art on his website – http://gopalnamjoshi.com
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)