F r o m P a i n t t o P at i n a
A two-dimensional figure on a canvas has many aspects that are hidden and left to one’s imagination. A three-dimensional bronze not only brings to life and extends itself to a more physical form but also exerts the artist to create the remainder of the image; a fresh imagination in continuum. This project is inspired by four eminent storytellers whose imagery has set ablaze the hearts of art lovers for decades. Jogen Chowdhury, Ram Kumar, Krishen Khanna and Thota Vaikuntam—all of whom have created a visual association with their viewers through the iconic images they have painted over time in their distinctive style. This very recognizable style and figuration is the inspiration and foundation of this project.
To create the bronzes the artists had to collaborate with skilled artisansto recreate the figures from every angle; not just the already painted front but also the ‘invisible’ sides and back of the figure. This provided the artists an exciting opportunity to look at their paintings afresh and constantly visit aspects they had not attended to previously.
Ram Kumar, who is known as an abstract artist, painted his figurative works in the 1950s and was immensely excited with the idea of revisiting the subject in a different dimension and seeing the Vagabond come to life some six decades after it was first painted. The process began with the selection of the individual figures from their previously created paintings and drawings, which became the starting point of the project as the initial point of reference.
Hereafter, wax or clay models were shaped, upon which the artists provided their inputs on revisions and further changes that were to be made into moulds. This project was fulfilled in collaboration with Bronze Age London, a leading sculpture casting foundry in the UK, resulting in the production of the most premium quality bronzes.
Jogen’s pieces especially proved to be a challenge due to the visual cross-hatching effect being an integral part of his artwork, which is difficult to recreate in a bronze sculpture. He took printed images from every angle of the clay model so he could draw over and make corrections wherever required.
Vaikuntam had craftsmen working under him to create the clay models to his desired precision. Krishen, who has explored sculpture more extensively over the years, enjoyed seeing his bandwallas come to life in bronze with the assistance of his drawings and subsequent patina suggestions. Overall, this exercise turned into a very symbiotic association between the artists, skilled craftsmen and Bronze Age London in creating these bronze sculptures. Once the final model was created passing the rigorous vetting of the artist, the model was signed by the respective artist and sent to London to be cast in bronze. The lost wax process was used to create the highest quality bronze casting.
The final task was ensuring that the patination of these bronzes was in line with the artists’ overall colour palettes. Since patina is not like paint it has its limitations with regard to the extent and tones of colours that can be used. The interaction of various combinations of chemicals at a high temperature on the finished bronze causes it to react and change its colour to achieve the desired finish. This is a rare skill and the variation of colour that was required for these pieces meant that special technicians had to be hired by the foundry to complete this crucial and challenging step. Some of the artists specially painted the desired patina output options with varied colour patterns, which was used as reference to ensure that the final pieces were as much in line with the artist’s vision as technically possible. Each piece was then accompanied by a certificate, signed jointly by the artist and Bronze Age, completing this momentous collaboration.
This project allowed the artists to extend themselves beyond the constraints of their most distinguished works and through a stroke of reimagining, see their iconic figures come to life in these twenty-six bronze sculptures.