Bengaluru resident Vishwanath Mallabadi Davangere turned his hobby of upcycling and art into a full fledged venture that has turned 200 kg of e-waste into intricate works of art.
For Bangalorean Vishwanath Mallabadi Davangere, there is no such thing as a useless object or ‘waste’. Give him anything — discarded metal or plastic items, old gadgets, dysfunctional printed circuit boards — and he’ll create art out of it. From jewellery, murals and sculptures to abstract art, art installations, wall art, and even robots.
The Wipro executive who turned into an eco-artist after retirement buys e-waste from scrap dealers and recyclers but says that he is selective in choosing the ‘waste’.
“I don’t pick up everything, only those items which have scope for transformation. I extract copper, gold or multi-coloured wires, keyboards and computer components that are useful according to the texture, colour and forms,” the 60-year-old tells The Better India.
Vishwanath’s passion is particularly relevant in the current age, where India generates more e-waste than it can recycle. In 2019-20, the country generated a total of 10.1 lakh tonnes of e-waste. Of this, only 22.7 percent was collected, dismantled, and recycled or disposed of.
The rest ends up in landfills, exacerbating environmental issues.
The eco-artist has upcycled and transformed nearly 200 kg of e-waste into usable products and proposes eco-art as a means to deal with waste management.
Turning a hobby into a business
Vishwanath’s father, D M Shambhu, was a famous sculptor and painter, but he wanted his son to choose medicine and become a doctor. However, Vishwanath, who was interested in upcycling second-hand objects right from childhood, decided to pursue a BFA in Applied Art.
He later went on to work at Wipro in Talent Transformation, but even while he was a senior executive, he would involve in research and development in eco-art. “In my free time and during the weekends, I used to conduct experiments in e-waste and try to develop something unique,” he recalls.
He would dismantle computers, laptops, data cards, DVDs, VCRs, floppy drives, set-top boxes, old landlines and cordless phones, and even medical devices such as glucometers.
“I started this as a fun activity; creating small animals out of scrap from gadgets. I used to collect a lot of e-waste, and nobody knew what I was trying to do exactly,” says Vishwanath with a laugh.
“But upon learning about the implications of e-waste on the environment, I started creating murals and sculptures, and slowly it turned into a business, post my retirement two years ago,” he adds.
Vishwanath has now started selling his unique artworks and says he has buyers from Europe, the Netherlands, the US and also Delhi.
500+ artefacts, from e-waste
So far, the eco-artist has created more than 500 artefacts. These include a six-foot tall sculpture made from upcycled computer keyboard keys on a mannequin, and a landscape inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, using upcycled resistors on wood, which was later coated with clear epoxy resin.
Among his other artworks are a 42×38 inch Kamadhenu (a divine bovine goddess) created from upcycled keyboard keys on a sun board finished with resin, a deer made of discarded multicore cables, a bird made with electronic components, plants and flowers from upcycled sugar glucometers and computer parts, and eco jewellery from upcycled digital wrist watch parts.
He has also created a portrait collage of business tycoon Azim Premji using e-waste on wood. He has even transformed e-waste into wearable art by designing apparel for a fashion show at Mount Carmel College, Bengaluru.
However, the process of upcycling is not that easy, says Vishwanath. The work involves scrutinising the e-waste objects — the texture, shape, and colour etc, and visualising and conceptualising the final product.
“It takes just two-three minutes to create a piece of jewellery, but it might take weeks and months for sculptures. However, sustainable initiatives and upcycled art are nowadays in demand in multi-national companies opting for a sustainable culture,” he informs.
Winning accolades for his talent
Vishwanath has been written about in the India Talent Magazine and has also given a talk at the first International Data Science Conference on UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), on putting e-waste to good use.
His passion and talent is remarkable! pic.twitter.com/BdPWxEcOKh— Indo Data Week for Sustainable Development Goals (@IndoWeek) December 3, 2019
The eco-artist has also written a paper titled ‘Upcycling for Sustainable Living, Complementing Circular Economy’ which was published by Springer Nature, Singapore, in 2020.
Meanwhile, Vishwanath is working on his next project, a 20×30 feet public art installation. He has already collected nearly 2,000 discarded parts of mobile phones, remote controls and calculators for this. He is also working on a mural installation and 3D sculpture which he proposes to display in the Bengaluru metro.
To know more about the artist and his work, visit his official website.
Edited by Asha Prakash. All images: Vishwanath Mallabadi.