Young artist Siddhartha Kararwal’s blog opens with an October 5 entry – of an assemblage made of plastic toy cows. The white, black and brown art work features the hind half of a few toy cows, assembled to look like a donut, titled “Forbidden Fruit.”
The Jaipur-based sculptor — in news recently after his installation roused the ire of right-wing cow lovers — has not displayed “Forbidden Fruit” in any art show yet. You point out to him that at a time when his Styrofoam cow — “Bovine Divine” — was brought down from air to be garlanded and “saved” with police help, the “Forbidden Fruit” may also very well run the risk of “getting political”. The farcical episode ended with the detention of two artists associated with the Jaipur art festival and eventually, the Chief Minister apologised for the ham handed way the police handled the case.
The 2009 alumnus of M.S. University, Baroda, point blank says he is not being political. “These days I have been hearing a lot about the cow, beef eating, etc. in public discourse. ‘Forbidden Fruit’ is my way of showcasing it. Though there is an element of satire in it, I am not taking any political stand through it. I am just a bystander in it, an artist noting the times. The use of a soft material like toys in it expresses my political neutrality.”
Those who always see red when it has anything to do with the cow may not get his point. Like they didn’t about his “Bovine Divine” — a Styrofoam cow pushed 100 feet into the air with the help of a balloon. “That too was also not political, just a pop-up to showcase, with humour, the reality, the times that cows are facing in a country where the majority holds them sacred. I wanted to show that while many are talking about saving the cow, this cow is trying to fly out of India because it has to eat plastic,” says the artist. “In fact”, he adds, “those who opposed it should have seen it as an appeal to save the animal from eating plastic which causes a painful death.”
A peek at Kararwal’s repertoire gives a good idea as to why he came up with “Bovine Divine”. Birds and animals have been a strong part of his creative sensibilities. A horse made of shirts (A Man on a Horse), a tiger from newspapers (Paper Tiger), a buffalo fashioned out of garbage bags (Funny Garbage), a rabbit made of LED tubes and red bulbs (Albanoalba), birds with paper, cloth and metal, feature in it. All to demonstrate what humankind does to animals.
“My ‘Paper Tiger’ was similar to ‘Bovine Divine’ in terms of thought. In 2009, I made a tiger from newspapers to show that the need to save the tiger is seen only in papers while the animal is dying,” points out Kararwal. He has made a series of dead birds and animal skins by using a variety of interesting material to highlight what man does for their comfort.
“These animal installations are my way of expressing that whatever experiment we do, we always end up making the animal the victim of it. It is the animal that is sacrificed eventually, even if we talk about saving it,” he states.
Kararwal uses a wide assortment of material to express these thoughts innovatively, a reason why he has increasingly been noticed as a talented, upcoming artist. In the 2013 India Art fair, he presented “Albanoalba”, an-8 feet high rabbit made of LED tubes, red bulbs and sound sensors. In 2012, “Lick Stick”, a giant tongue made of silicon was displayed at an exhibition in Latitude Art Gallery, New Delhi. His “A Man on Horse” is shaped with 150 shirts wrapped around iron.
“I use a variety of materials that helps me realise my work. Like plastic bags, foam sheets, fire-crackers, card-board, bronze, iron, copper, fibre, clay, plaster of Paris, etc. My ideas and my forms together attempt to reconstruct a reality where even a piece of cardboard in the pedestal has a conversation with the viewer,” he says.
His latest interest is in children’s toys and play things. “Action figures, guns, jigsaw puzzles, mobile/kinetic sculptures like remote-controlled cars or hot wheels seem to me like a zone where reality is elevated almost to this loud, maniacal super-reality. And it is in this zone of the ‘super real’ that I find my interpretation of reality fit most comfortably. These are the tools I like to use to, in some sense, write an account of the time and space that I live in,” he explains.