So many names crop up when we talk of famous figures from the city. Perhaps there are only two of them who made the city famous, or City Beautiful. With that we rightfully point out to the late Le Corbusier and Nek Chand (the order is not important). Today on his 4th death anniversary, we revisit Nek Chand the artist. In the era when recycling was not a buzzword and up cycling was unheard of.
“Of all his sculptures comprising different waste materials, the ones with broken bangle pieces are my favourite. There is a certain innocence in them and beauty that is unique,” artist Jagdeep Jolly, currently art teacher at Government School, Sector 45, started his career as a sculptor using waste materials like old used paper and other scrap. “But honestly at the time, that was as much out of a financial limitation of using expensive materials.” It takes evolution and maturity to find beauty in the hidden and which is why even now the search for, “unique materials continues.” That might involve some scrap that needs welding, or anything not on the surface.
Beauty lies in the process
While most might directly be influenced by his works, Vishal Bhatnagar, art resource person at the Government Museum and Art Gallery, Sector 10, is inspired by his “process of art.”
“This is most important for any artist. The way Nek Chand approached art, the patience and dedication that is the most moving thing about him,” shares the artist, who once did a seminar on the late legend while pursuing MFA. “I got to interact with him and found out he worked in isolation for 12 years.” Now, what can be more motivating?
Satire on society
May be the place itself. Which is why city-based renowned artist Viren Tanwar would just go and sit in the Rock Garden whenever he needed to feel inspired enough to create anything.
“Especially his sculptures near the fountain. There is a castle on top, which is locked for public but the forms feel as if they are coming down,” adds the artist, who goes many years back with the late Nek Chand. “At the time of the inauguration of the Rock Garden, I didn’t understand how that was even possible? One man creating so much! He told me, ‘You want to go to Delhi, you set on, you’ll reach Ambala at least’.”
That’s enthusiasm redefined. “Rock Garden is not just creativity at its best but it’s also a satire on society.”
Primitive expression of a modern man
There is no denying the lack of creativity that a job of a government road inspector entrusted with the supervision of construction of roads entails. “Yet, he started off from the storehouse of PWD office, bringing rocks from Ghaggar,” shares another renowned artist from the city, Prem Singh. “I feel the most inspiring thing about Rock Garden is that it is an art which is the primitive expression of a modern man.”
He adds, “Before he became the Nek Chand, he was our friend and what never changed in him was the commitment and unmatched passion.” Something that never wavered when questions like, ‘How can an unplanned structure like Rock Garden come about in a planned city?’ were being raised by the bureaucracy and administration in the seventies. Little did they know that “unplanned structure” would be instrumental in the shaping the art and artists for the generations to come.
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