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Posted at: Jul 1, 2018, 1:36 AM; last updated: Jul 1, 2018, 1:36 AM (IST)

Finding beauty in trash

Sculptures made from scrap adorn the streets and railway station of Vadodara

Kavita Kanan Chandra

From streets to railway station, in Vadodara scrap takes the form of sculptures to soothe the senses of harried commuters. Reduce, reuse and upcycle is the motto of artists here as they create art that now adorns the streets and railway station.

The city’s association with art goes back to the times of erstwhile Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad, who propagated art in a big way, and Raja Ravi Varma, who produced exemplary paintings while residing in Vadodara. In independent India, his legacy continued with the opening of the Faculty of Fine Arts that encouraged contemporary art. As veterans from the world of art congregated here and students from across the country blossomed under their guidance, the artistic sensibilities of the city evolved. Carrying that contemporary style and experimentation forward are artists and sculptors, who are creatively transforming useless scrap into aesthetically pleasing artwork.

As you enter the city, scrap sculptures, graffiti and vibrant pithora tribal paintings on the walls and crossroads attract. For any visitor alighting from a train at the station, it’s a visual delight. The paintings giving a three-dimensional effect, colourful furniture and scrap sculptures lift your mood. Painter Bhavsinh Bambhaniya and others worked on the concept of life on track and heritage of Baroda railway, thus bringing about stories of passengers, hawkers and railway workers as paintings on the corner walls and the flyover.

You feel especially intrigued by the pop-art furniture that, on a closer look, reveals metal gears and hollow pipes. The scrap once rusting in a forgotten corner of the railway dumpyard came to life when a group of young architects decided to work on them. “We had to take into account the aesthetics, functionality and selection of material appropriate for a railway station,” says Harshit Shah, an architect. The scrap furniture curated by Priyank Shah has striking pieces of contemporary art in vivid and bold colours. There is a seating arrangement aptly titled ‘Lollipop’, for, it appears as tempting as candy on a stick. The metal gear arranged as table top are funky yet functional. There are almost a dozen showpieces enhancing the beauty of the station.

Outside the premises, a big scrap sculpture catches attention. The strong presence of crocodiles in Vadodara wetlands and rivers is aptly represented by two giant figures frolicking with each other. A hanging scrap train with 21 compartments arranged in a spiral manner is prominently placed at the entrance. “Vadodara has a rich heritage of railways. That made the train an obvious choice,” says sculptor Keval Kahar.

It is to be noted that the visionary Maharaja of Baroda was a pioneer in railways as he introduced a 13-km narrow gauge rail line between Dabhoi and Miyagam in 1863. Oxen then hauled the train carriages laden with cotton bales. It grew into the Gaekwad Baroda State Railway, later becoming an integral part of the Bombay Baroda & Central India Railway (BB&CIR) and finally merged with the Western Railway. “The highlight of this creative exercise is to inspire awe and joy with the conscious use of steel and iron scrap,” says Sachin Kaluskar, an art curator. “Now the same scrap, treated and handled creatively, adorns the space turning the station into an art gallery of sorts.”

Step out of the station and as you drive through the city, you see many more scrap sculptures at prominent city circles and crossroads. Last year, Vadodara Municipal Corporation and alumni from Faculty of Fine Arts had twice held ‘Scrap to Sculpture’ camps to make some fetching work of art for installation around the city. The industrial city of Vadodara has no dearth of scrap — be it metal chains, pipes, water tanks, iron rods, etc.

Vadodara is a city where artistic ethos co-exists with the industrious nature of its people. Sculptor Ketan Amin has created a lion with a flowing mane standing with a microphone. It gives an illusion of the animal addressing a large gathering, like a politician. It is installed in a prominent green circle of the city. It is interesting to spot an aeroplane ready to fly near the airport, a rock singer strumming a guitar and a bull made of metal gear charging at you. If some evoke a sense of movement or action, some are more philosophical in intent.

Even prior to such camps, some sculptors had installed their work in metal and scrap around the city, one of the oldest being that of a rhinoceros prominently installed at the ‘Genda Circle’ in the 1970s. Sculptor Narottamdas Kavaiya, known as Narottam Luhar, welded pieces of scrap he obtained from the SIECL (Sayaji Iron & Engineering Company Limited) plant to create a 3 tonne rhinoceros. Well, today basks in a rich past.

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