by Dilpreet BhullarJan 29, 2023
What would something as mundane as a ‘wall’ signify for you? Something that almost defines our everyday life when considered as the physical structure and emphasises our behaviour and attitude when looked at metaphorically. The earliest ancestors used the surface of cave-walls to document. The walls, just as the skin, became a mode to draw boundaries, to contain, and to protect.
Architect and artist, Arzan Khambatta used the idea of walls to create a body of work for his recently concluded solo show at the Gallery Art & Soul in Mumbai. “They enclose not only our space but also our energy, much like the sanctum sanctorum of a temple. They capture our breath, our emotions and our lives and become a receptacle for our memories. Like sponges, they soak up our philosophies, conversations and memories. They know us; they keep our secrets, and yet, in the process of ‘decorating’ a wall, we subconsciously reveal our inner selves,” says Khambatta.
Here, STIR speaks to the artist on his work philosophy and making of The Walls.
Rahul Kumar (RK): What is the genesis of your enquiry into the idea of walls? You are an architect by education and profession, is that the source of your inspiration?
Arzan Khambatta (AK): These days, with the amount of segregations we are getting into, based on caste, creed, religion, colour and social status, we are constantly building these virtual walls around ourselves. These walls are only alienating us from our basic humanity within ourselves. This was a strong emotion that I was experiencing, and I wanted to get the same out in a physical art form to engage the audience.
Yes, being an architect has always influenced my works. This time, it was the words of a professor in my first year that resonated and helped me create these walls. We exist within, outside, or around architecture constantly. The general architecture is defined by lines in the form of walls. These walls enclose or transfer the spaces within and around them. It is the quality of these spaces that affect the human life.
RK: The imagery and treatment of the works and its surface is abstracted. What metaphors have you used for the 12 works at your recent solo show?
AK: Actually, the 12 works are just components of one work, split into 12 parts that fan out across the gallery. I see it as a singular, one piece. Titled The Walls, I want the viewer to walk through and around to experience it as a composite.
RK: What made you choose an all-black surface for the walls?
AK: It is graphite grey. I wanted them dark. I want the audience to think of the very walls that they themselves stay within, and then the walls they have created amidst themselves. The lighting at the show was also kept sombre for that purpose. One must withdraw within to experience these works.
RK: The works have renditioning on the surface, and also within (the hollow wall structures). Please elaborate the thought process behind this duality.
AK: The walls we live in hold a lot of information. They are the eyes and ears to events, family conversations, deals being done, intimate moments. Such a varied quantum of information appears in its different forms within the walls. They are multi-dimensional.
RK: Over the years, you have used a wide variety of media and style in your works. What governs the choices you make to produce a work?
AK: The very mood you are in whilst creating a series reflects in your works. The mood governs the overall theme of the works, which governs the forms, and hence the materials. Each and every concept requires the use of the right kind of materials to bring the right effect out. For this series, The Walls, the neutral monotone was intentional. I wanted to emphasise that whilst everything within the wall is so varied, over the years it amalgamates into one mass, one organism.
RK: You have undertaken several ‘commissioned’ projects in the past. Do you believe that they truly represent you as an artist?
AK: Oh, totally! Most of my works are site-specific commissioned sculptures. I love the way I am able to react to the location, the area, the building, the purpose of the structure, and then come up with something that fits that space and is exclusive to that.