Jagannath Panda

Jagannath Panda (born in 1970) one of the pioneer Indian contemporary painters and sculptors creates intricate art that reconciles the mythical and technological, reflecting on India's transition in an era of intense urbanisation. He records the tensions brought about by social change, often humanising animals to become actors in his ambiguous worlds, which hover between reality, metaphor and dream.

Born in 1970 into a Brahmin family and the son of a temple priest, Panda grew up in Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha (formerly Orissa) State in eastern India. His passion for art began in childhood; he remembers being inspired by the illustrations in the classic children's magazine Chandamama and by the artisans making religious figurines near his home. After completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at Bhubaneswar's B. K. College of Art & Crafts in 1991, he studied for a Masters in Sculpture at the M. S. University of Baroda, Gujarat, graduating in 1994. In 1997, he was invited to Fukuoka University of Education in Japan as a visiting research fellow; he then gained a further MA in Sculpture at the Royal College of Art, London (2002). During these years of study, Panda won many prestigious awards, including the National Academy Award from Lalit Kala Academy, New Delhi (1995); the All-India Award from the South Cultural Centre, Nagpur (1990, 1994), the Alice Boner Memorial Award (1991), and London's C.I.I.C. Centre Prize (2002).

As well as being deeply affected by the traditional culture of Odisha, Panda cites as influences the conceptual artist On Kawara and the French-American Louise Bourgeois. In his earliest works, he experimented with different media on paper, mixing collage and drawing techniques to explore the role of iconography in communication and to comment upon socio-political situations in contemporary India. His signature technique, used in both paintings and sculptures, is to incorporate into their surfaces traditional brocade fabrics, which often become the skins of beasts, the bark of trees or the garments of mythological figures. On both paper and canvas, his detailed drawings recall the palm-leaf manuscripts of Odisha, while the characters in his works are often lifted directly from the epic Hindu sagas of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

In 2005 Panda relocated his studio to Gurgaon, a suburb of New Delhi that has been built on former farmland in the past 20 years. The landscape of his immediate surroundings, dominated by arterial roads and continual construction projects, recurs in his subsequent works, complemented as before by timeless motifs of Indian life and traditional culture. Glass and steel office towers careen in multiple perspectives, often beginning to decay while they are still under construction. Figures from Hindu mythology and trees with undulating branches intrude into the ordered grid of the city, reflecting the mass migrations that are taking place, the clash between rural and urban societies and the chain of production and consumption so at odds with the environment. Such dichotomies are fundamental to Panda's creativity, expressed through both his imagery and the materials he employs. In works with such titles as Scape-goat, Alpha Epic and Metropolis of Mirage, he returns to key issues such as the construction of identities (both personal and social), the conundrum of who belongs where in an age of transitions, and how each person searches for their own utopia.

The Profiteer, 2017
The Custodian of Untold Truth-I, 2020
The Custodian of Untold Truth-II, 2020
Baffled Brothers-I, 2017
Baffled Brothers-II, 2017
Baffled Brothers-III, 2017

When the Other Stares Back: Part II

Gigi Scaria, Jagannath Panda, Jayashree Chakravarty, Radhika Agarwala, Sonia Mehra Chawla and Suhasini Kejriwal

Fri, 22 July 2022

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