Vikram Goyal has always worked on both strong aesthetic and fine technique in his metal sculptural pieces. For over two decades, the Delhi-based designer has been collaborating with skilled craftspersons to extend the boundaries of traditional forms and conceptual narratives. And now a wider section of people in the capital will get a glimpse of his visual language, as he debuts at the India Art Fair (9-12 February) with a new series of sculptural pieces.
Needless to say, Goyal is looking forward to the prospect of displaying this fresh set of contemporary statement pieces, including The Tree of Good Fortune, Dreamscape, and Love Seat. “[The excitement is also] because this is an art fair as opposed to a design one. I have tailored some of our key products as art pieces, which was an interesting area for me to explore,” he says.
From the approximately nine or ten pieces at the show, some are sculptural cabinets and tables, while the rest are installation pieces. Goyal’s design philosophy is informed by his childhood memories, which saw him travel extensively, and also his experiences as a young adult working in finance in the US and Hong Kong before returning to India in 2000. His journey has been an inward-looking one, which has prompted him to use contemporary design to take the goodness of Indian craft to a wider audience.
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Last year, Goyal had conceptualised and co-designed Shringara Of Shrinathji, a collector’s edition book offering a previously unseen look at his family collection of 60 miniature paintings of Nathdwara’s Lord Shrinathji. His latest exhibition takes forward this interest in India’s deeply spiritual heritage.
In a note shared about the show, Goyal has mentioned, “In every part of India, from our spiritual heritage to our daily rituals, I am taken by our profound notion of ‘belief’. “Given what we are seeing in the world. I wanted to come out with the richness of symbols associated with good fortune, well-being and prosperity.”
He now draws our attention to some of the highlights of his show. Made of different cast pieces in brass, the tree-like forms draw from the Brutalist style known for its jagged edges. Titled, The Tree of Good Fortune, this striking work has different amulets hanging from its branches. It is an immersive sculpture, inviting the viewer to not just admire its aesthetics but also to take one of the amulets—Gajaraja, Hamsa or Makara among others—as keepsakes for good luck and prosperity.
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Ideas of good luck, faith and hope find place even in the large mural titled Dreamscape, which highlights Goyal’s signature metalworking technique called repousse. “I was inspired by The Book of Dreams, the 17th century manuscript housed in the Udaipur’s City Palace Museum, that has these beautiful illustrations of good and bad omens,” Goyal shares. The intricately-detailed wall panel, crafted in brass with a gold finish, depicts a range of motifs including a tree of parrots, fabled beasts and other auspicious representations of good luck, faith, and hope.
A take on the traditional loveseat, the sculptural brass bench, also titled Loveseat, marries form and function displaying a range of techniques including pietra dua and hollowed joinery. “The latter is where we take sheets of metal and join them together by taking out the valves which is a painstaking and laborious process,” explains the designer. Delving deeper into the question of what is design and what is art, Goyal says that design by definition is meant to be duplicated. “But a lot of design now has become a one-off or limited edition, so there is a confluence with art. Loveseat falls in that realm,” he adds.
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Throwing light on his tryst with brass as the signature material, Goyal recalls encounters with master craftsmen of this material. “Unlike copper and bronze, brass is very malleable and can be used in varied ways,” he says.
At his New Delhi-based studio, master craftsmen can be seen beating, hammering and treating sheets of brass. “We push the boundaries of craftsmanship through modern techniques and tools, creating three-dimensional objects from the two-dimensional sheets,” he elaborates.