“It is always easier to make a sculpture of a live model than copying from a picture.”
Art doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it needs a lot of passion and perseverance to grow and blossom. The adage ‘practice makes man perfect’ is very relevant to the field of art. Through rigorous discipline and exercise one reaches the path of development.
Once an artist hones his skills, he starts applying his imagination to the art he creates. Painting is all about bright colours and it tends to attract attention immediately. However, sculpture with its volume and texture freezes a particular moment for the posterity.
Very few artists get the opportunity to make a sculpture of a living person and ace sculptor Niranjan Pradhan is one such artist who got President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, to sit before him while he made his sculpture. The bust of the president stands proudly in the Rashtrapati Bhawan. It is a special moment in his long career and he says, “It is always easier to make a sculpture of a live model than copying from a picture.”
Mr. Niranjan Pradhan is blessed to work with many notable subjects. In 1996, he was invited by the British City Council, UK and the High Commissioner for India, London to visit the site where the statue of Rammuhan Roy would be installed in Bristol.
It was here, where one of Niranjan’s work would be on display. He created a bronze statue of Raja Rammuhan Roy which was later installed at College Green Park in Bristol. This is a very prominent memory of this great artist. His creative statue was also later installed at a park in Zurich in Switzerland.
He made sculptures of eminent people including Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, Rabindranath Tagore, Satyajit Ray, Shahid Rao Tularam, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, Sri Aurobindo, Swami Vivekananda and the great actor Uttam Kumar. His statues have been installed throughout the country.
A lot of research goes into the creation of these life-size statues, as a sculptor he analyses the person’s character by talking to people who are close to these luminaries. The leaders of the freedom movement inspire him deeply and he feels that such leaders are rare to find in the country now.
He received the President of India's Silver Plaque for Sculpture as the best exhibit of the exhibition from All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society, in 1970. He was awarded the Certificate of Merit and the Best Exhibit in Sculpture in All India Annual Exhibition of Arts from Birla Academy of Art and Culture twice in 1973 and 1974 and again in 1976 and 1980.
Being a sculptor par excellence he is very modest in accepting recognition and awards he rightly deserves. He says that recognition motivates an artist to give him his best.
The longevity of sculptures really inspired him to make a transition from painting to sculpting. He said, “For me, painting is limited when it comes to a time phrase. Whatever medium I executed the painting, its longevity can be maximum for 500-600 years. However, when a civilization gets ruined then no painting exists. But art and architecture, by which I mean sculptures remains. If we look at Mohenjodaro and Harappa civilization, we see pieces of art and sculpture that reflects an advanced civilization. The sculpture of the dancing girl and Lord Shiva shows the existence of sculpture beyond time. That’s why I chose sculpture.” His teacher Chintamoni Kar encouraged him and gave a scope to work. The works of famous sculptor Ramkinkar Baij influenced him deeply.
The daily struggle of human and nature are the biggest inspirations for artists. He is no exception. He explains how sculptures created post the bombing of Hiroshima Nagasaki emphasised the fact the modern weapons can create immense destruction. He further adds, “Man can’t survive without nature because he is an integral part of it.”
“Sculpture adapts to the surrounding in which it is kept, the play of light and shade makes it look so beautiful. I believe sculptures of Nataraj, Buddha and Ajanta and Ellora will never be replicated. Ashok Stamba is still relevant today, because it is our national emblem. Sculpture is immortal. Only time can judge which piece of sculpture is the best”.
He started sculpting with wood and terracotta and later shifted to stone and bronze. He loves working with bronze because there is more freedom working with this material and it doesn’t break easily. His creation ‘Cloud’ made with glass fibre is surreal. When it comes to young sculptors today, he is happy that they are working with mixed media. However, there isn’t much change in the techniques, but the thought process has definitely changed.