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If not the locust cloud, then whom to blame

Published : Apr 2, 2016, 10:40 pm IST
Updated : Apr 2, 2016, 10:40 pm IST

Art and intention — however fatigued these two words are due to overuse — is every artist’s aspiration and Prabhakar Pachpute’s work has finely balanced just that.

arts .jpg
 arts .jpg

Art and intention — however fatigued these two words are due to overuse — is every artist’s aspiration and Prabhakar Pachpute’s work has finely balanced just that. Prabhakar uses his art — drawings, sculptures and installations — to illustrate his experiences and observations about the coal mining industry. His upcoming site-specific exhibition in the city, te tolanche dhaga navhate | no, it wasn’t the locust cloud, is an extension of his preoccupation with the coalmines.

Born in a small town in the industrial region of Chandrapur district in Maharashtra, Prabhakar grew up listening to stories about the life of the coal miners in the nearby coalmines. “My mother would tell me stories about my grandfather who used to work in one of the mines,” he says. Soon after realising his love for the finer arts, he chose to study painting and sculpture. Today, his work is highly regarded within the fine art community.

The artist has a penchant for the surreal and the banal and has developed his own style. “I like to use metaphors in my work, and I always like to show everything in layers. So when I show a man with a house instead of a head, it makes a difference,” he explains.

Prabhakar’s practice mainly deals with transformation of the landscape and the economy in contemporary India alongwith the working conditions of Indian miners. “In India, often the exhausted mines are discarded. But these landscapes can be used creatively instead of letting them become a dustbowl,” he points out.

Shedding light on the possibilities, he adds, “In Germany, the open pits have been transformed to lovely ampitheatres, why can’t we do something similar ”

It is not industrialisation that Prabhakar is against; it is the lack of concern for the land or the people. “These coal mines have been extremely crucial for the people in these pockets of the country. They have got jobs and things have developed quite rapidly, which couldn’t have been possible through agriculture. But my concern is with the leftover mines. We can achieve a fine balance,” he adds.

In the last few years, Prabhakar has travelled to several countries with his work, and at most of the places he made it a point to visit the local mines. “I have been to the salt mines in Turkey, the iron ore and gold mines in Brazil, the marble mines in Italy. Needless to say, there the working conditions are much different from the Indian ones — from better equipment to better healthcare — we are far behind,” he says.

The title of the exhibition comes from a conversation that Prabhakar had with his curators, Zasha Colah and Luca Cerizza. “It’s a reference to T.S.Eliot’s The Wasteland, which is a Biblical reference to locusts, who are blamed for destroyed crops and the land, but actually it is us who are responsible and we believe that the land can be transformed in a better way,” says Luca. Te tolanche dhaga navhate | no, it wasn’t the locust cloud opens with a discussion by eminent artists, art-historians, and filmmakers On April 11, 4 pm onwards, At National Gallery of Modern Art, Sir Cowasji Jahangir Public Hall, M G Road, Fort