Saturday, 30 December 2017

Discovering John Latham's art at Venice Biennale

Books, both as physical as well as conceptual objects, can be a part of an art installation, and can express ideas about different things including memory and knowledge. A Zambia born British artist, John Latham (1921-2006) is known for his art installations in which books played a central role. In Venice Biennale this year, different installations of Latham were brought together in a special exhibition.

Art of John Latham at Venice Biennale, Italy - Images by Sunil Deepak

This post is about the art of John Latham, as well as a few other art works related to books from Venice Biennale 2017.

Art and books

Books have been around us for a relatively short time but they have deeply affected and changed the way we think about and understand the world. Art was a precursor of writing and became an integral part of the books, as can be seen in a medieval manuscript in the image below (from the medieval art museum, Bologna, Italy).

Art in a medieval manuscript, Medieval museum, Bologna, Italy - Images by Sunil Deepak

Democratisation of reading books occurred mainly in the 20th century with increases in literacy. Thus books were seen as repositories of knowledge, memories, histories and cultures, leading to the consolidation of languages and loss of "dialects". In the 21st century, technological advances have completed this circle and we seem to be going back towards a world dominated by visuals (video along with virtual realities and artificial intelligence), as primary medium of human expression.

It is possible that in the human future, with increasing spread of videos, reading books may again become a marginal activity, no longer necessary for learning or communication. But for us old timers, books still continue to be an important part of our communication. 

John Latham's art installations

Latham became known for his use of spray-paint as his primary art-medium in the 1950s. In the 1960s, he started using books in collage art works. For these collages, he tore books into pieces, cut them into different shapes, burnt parts of them, creating specific objects which represented shapes and colours, as well as our ideas and feelings about role of books in the society.

Art of John Latham at Venice Biennale, Italy - Images by Sunil Deepak

Together with other artists, he created events of "Performance Art", during which they brought together art, creativity and the sensibility of theater performances.

Art of John Latham at Venice Biennale, Italy - Images by Sunil Deepak

His use of books and related materials in the art works was called "Skoob" (Books written backwards). From creating collages, he moved to creating book-structures such as towers, which were then burnt during performances, creating a transitory art which could evoke deep feelings in the audience because of the way they perceived the sacredness of books.

Art of John Latham at Venice Biennale, Italy - Images by Sunil Deepak

In 1966, Latham invited a group of art students to chew the pages of an art book taken from the library. Later all those chewed pages were put into a phial and returned to the library. This exercise was supposed to express the concept of "destruction is an equal and opposite process of creation". Such "performance art" created his image as a firebrand revolutionary artist. Latham's influence can be seen from the 2016 album of Pink Floyd, which had a previously unreleased song titled "John Latham".

Art of John Latham at Venice Biennale, Italy - Images by Sunil Deepak

Among all the works of Latham presented in the Venice Biennale, I personally liked the round ball like sculptures hanging from the roof, in which books or parts of books were placed/collated in different ways. They made me think of books and knowledge as a new born bird, breaking out of the egg and growing up as an independent and interconnected idea.

Art of John Latham at Venice Biennale, Italy - Images by Sunil Deepak

Among Latham's ideas, I find intriguing those on the "flat time" and moving away from "space-based art" to a "time-based art".

Other book-based art works

Near the John Latham exhibition, around the Venice Biennale library there were some other art works in which books played a central role. For example, there were different paintings by the Chinese artist Liu Ye such as "Books on books" shown in the image below.

Art of Liu Ye at Venice Biennale, Italy - Images by Sunil Deepak

Then there were the works of Romanian artist Ciprian Muresan, who had used all the art works from a book to create his collage of sketches on a single sheet. His work shown below has a collage of sketches from all the paintings from a book on Tretyakov Gallery.

Art of Ciprian Muresan at Venice Biennale, Italy - Images by Sunil Deepak

Finally there was the installation "Al Saadi's diaries" by Abdullah Al Saadi from United Arab Emirates. This installation had 39 metal boxes, each containing a canvas with drawings, notes, pictures.

Art of Abdullah Al Saadi at Venice Biennale, Italy - Images by Sunil Deepak

Conclusions

Venice Biennale had a lot of stimulating and interesting art works. Among them was the John Latham exhibition. I have a long-standing interest in different uses of books in art and art-installations, thus it was wonderful to discover his works. It was a wonderful opportunity to see the different works of John Latham in one place.


*** 

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Around the world with 80 cows

Cows are considered sacred by a large number of Indians. They are a popular theme in sculptures and a source of meat in other parts of the world. In this post I am bringing together some of my favourite images of cows and cow-sculptures from different corners of the world.


Let me start this post with a beautiful green cow with black dots from the 2015 World Expo in Milan. The popularity of cow-sculptures can be understood from the "Cows in Parade" initiative - it was one of the biggest public art events ever organised and between 1999 till 2015, has been held in about 15 countries so far.

In this post, I am devoting more space to cows in India because it is here that we have such a complex relationship with them and because they evoke so much passions among Indians unlike any other animal.

Cows in India

As in almost every aspect of life, India has multiple and contradictory approaches to the cows and their sacredness. On one hand, people offer food and prayers to them, build Gaushalas (cow homes) for them, and put up their statues in the temples. The beliefs about the sacredness of cows, though more predominant among Hindus,  are shared in different degrees between the different Indic religions. On other other hand, ill nourished cows can be seen looking for food in the garbage dumps, eating plastic bags and sitting abandoned in the middle of the roads while the traffic passes around them. My images of cows from India bring together some of these contradictions.

Let me start with some images from the north-east of India. The first image is from Ambubashi festival in Guwahati. One of the Sadhavis near the Kamakhaya temple asked me to click her picture with the Gaumata (mother cow).


The next two beautiful images of the cow sculptures are from the entrance of the Shukreshwar temple on the banks of Brahmaputra in Guwahati. These include a statue of the mythical Kamdhenu cow.



The fourth image is about the worship of a young cow during the Rongali Bihu celebration in Assam.


The fifth image is from Bellary district in Karnataka, showing a cattle market, especially for the sale of cows.


The next image is also from north Karnataka, showing a centre for protection of indigenous varieties of Indian cows.  It includes services for sterilizing and making medicines from the cow urine according to the Ayurveda traditions.


The next Indian image is actually from the V.A. museum in London, showing an antique sculpture of the mythical Kamdhenu from south India. Kamdhenu is the cow of the gods, which can fulfill all the wishes of those who pray to it.


The next image is from a Garbage dump in Boragaon (Assam) showing cows searching for food.


The final image from India is from Nagaland, showing the cow/bull horns decorating the entrance of a house. Different parts of India, especially in the north-east and in Kerala, also have wide-spread traditions of eating cow meat.


Cows from other parts of the world

While in India the cow sculptures are almost always linked with Hindu temples, in the rest of the world, cows do not have a sacred significance. Instead, as mentioned earlier about the "Cow in Parade" initiative, cow sculptures are mainly about art. Let me start this part with a cow sculpture from Brazil, which has a huge cow meat-eating culture. This beautiful sculpture is from Goiania in central part of the country.


The next cow sculpture is from Vienna in Austria. It is designed like a bar for drinking beer.


The next two images of multi-coloured cows were clicked in the World Expo 2015 in Milan (Italy), but they are a part of the "Cows in Parade" initiative.



The final two images of cows are from the Novegno mountain near our home in Schio in north-east of Italy, showing two varieties of local cows placidly grazing in the green mountain pastures. Under the pressure of globalisation, specific high milk-yielding species of cows are replacing the indigenous species of cows all around the world. In this scenario, some groups are fighting to conserve their indigenous varieties of cows.



Conclusions

I hope you have enjoyed this world tour of the cows and cow-sculptures. These were not exactly 80 cows (there are around 40-45 cows in these images) but I liked the title so much that I had to use it.

When I thought of writing this post, I did not realise that I had so many pictures of cows from different parts of the world. In the end, I had to leave out many of those images, but I had fun selecting the images and writing it!


Let me conclude this post with an image of blue cow sculpture with the European flag from the World Expo in Milan.

***

Saturday, 23 December 2017

The adventures of the Indian Tintin, Jagga Jasoos

Like every year-end, magazines are coming up with the lists of major things that happened in 2017. Among these, are the articles about the disappointing films of the year. One such article wrote, "Big Stars like Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif delivered a dud like Jagga Jasoos, a criminal waste of resources that should have never been allowed." I feel bad that Jagga Jasoos did not do well at the box office, but do not agree with this assessment. I think that it was one of the best movies of 2017.

This post is about why I loved "Jagga Jasoos" and why I am going to watch it again many times in future.

Good films and bad box office

It has happened many times in the past that a good movie is not appreciated by people when it comes out. Some times, the film even gets good reviews from the critics but people stay away it. Yet, with time people come to recognise that the film was good and thus, sometimes the box-office failures turns into a cult films.

"Jagga Jasoos" got mixed reviews, but people didn't like it. Some critics loved its magical ambiance, its music and its whimsical approach. But would it ever become a cult film? I hope so!

BTW, the last time that I had really loved a movie, which had received bad reviews and had a worse box-office run, was "Jhoom barabar Jhoom". After years, it remains one of my favourites, but I have to say that it was never "rediscovered" and did not become a cult movie.

Jagga Jasoos story

The film is about an orphan boy Jagga (Ranbir Kapoor), who is adopted by a man he calls Tuti Futti (Saswata Chatterjee) and then left in a Boarding school in Manipur. Jagga's only contact with his adopted father is an annual video-cassette with his birthday greetings. In the school, teenager Jagga is known for his observation and deduction skills and helps to solve murder mysteries - first the mystery of the clock-tower and then the mystery of the giant wheel.

A mix-up of his birthday video-cassette with another cassette exposing an international arms smuggler called Bashir Alexander, alerts him to the danger to his adopted father's life. He asks the help of Shruti (Katrina Kaif), a journalist whom he had helped while solving the mystery number 2. Together, they go to Africa, manage to save his father and to expose the arms smuggler.

In terms of Jagga's characterisation and ambiance, there is a clear inspiration from the Tintin comics.

Why I liked the film

It could have been a regular action film but instead the director Anurag Basu has opted for an animation film kind of approach, with a teenage hero who is still studying in school. All the events in the film unfold in vivid colours, often with a painting-like effect, with an occasional present-past-back-to-the-present swing. The boy-hero has some serious stammer, so he hardly has any dialogues but has plenty of songs (great music by Pritam).

The film has a rich canvass, full of small details, which you may miss in the first viewing. Apart from the saturated colours, especially in the shades of green, the film has some of the most unusual locations including a Kayan tribe village from Myanmar, an underground river flowing in a cave and the relatively unknown Manipur. It even has a bit of Assamese Bihu dance. It also has a rich presence of African animals including a a puma, some zebras & giraffes, some marmots and a wild escape riding on the ostriches. Visually, I found it difficult to take my eyes off the screen.

As usual, Ranbir Kapoor is wonderful and he does manage to look like a slightly overgrown schoolboy. Even Katrina is ok (except may be in the song "Daru pi kar chale gaye", where she is bad). However it is the all the other supporting actors, from Saswat Chatterjee (father) and Rajatava Dutta (Police inspector) to Sayani Gupta (classmate and friend) and Saurabh Shukla (ex-policeman and conspirator) to the bit-part players like the nurses and doctors in the hospital, everyone is good. Sarvajeet Tiwari playing the young Jagga has the right mix of vulnerability and curiosity, and is perfect for the role.


The film's opening scene with a pied-piper like figure leading a row of artists, shooting a film in Purulia, shown in a painting like effect, sums up the film - in spite of the Jasoos (spy) in its name, it is not a thriller, but a musical dipped in magic realism, to be enjoyed with a child's wide-eyed innocence. It did touch the child inside me and that is why I liked it so much.

Though the film has Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif, there is no real romance between them. Their relationship is more like a school boy's crush on his favourite school teacher, which was inevitable since Jagga is shown studying in a school while Shruti is an affirmed journalist.

Jagga's logic in involving Shruti in the search for his father - "She is so clumsy and unlucky but every time she has bad luck, it brings good luck to me" - is at best, contorted logic. The film is full of such contorted and yet exquisite moments and ideas.

Things I would change in the film

The film should have been shorter by about 40-50 minutes.

The film moves from one episode to another in quick bursts, without really any time to feel the thrills. For example the lovely scene of the Kayan village, followed by an encounter with arms smugglers, is resolved in a one minute long escape down an amazing waterfall gushing out from a hill. Or the scene of the car chase with the shooter who keeps on missing the targets, ends before you understand what is happening. So many scenes are brief and terminate abruptly. A little longer build-up and follow-through of scenes, would have been better. So how could they reduce the film's duration?

The film is so beautiful visually, that I think that if I was in Basu's place, even I would have had difficulties in deciding which scenes to cut from the movie. Still a slightly lesser number of events with longer and more emotion-filled conclusions would have helped in creating a better connect with audience.

Conclusions

I think that Jagga Jasoos will be among my favourite films - films that I rewatch every now and then.

If you didn't watch this movie when it was released, if you have the capacity to feel a child's wonder, and if you like reading comics, then my advice is - do get hold of its DVD and watch it! Better still, watch it with kids.

Note: The images used in this post are from the publicity material of the film.

***

Monday, 18 December 2017

The wonderful world of Steam-Punk

Steam-Punk is a fashion, literature and art movement inspired from the innovations in the 18th century which led to the industrial revolution. Recently I saw some steam-punk enthusiasts dressed in their costumes.


It was my introduction to the steam-punk movement - I had never heard of them before. All the images in this post are of the persons from the Italian "Steam-Punk Nord-est" association.

Costumes and make-believe worlds

People have always loved dressing up in costumes, for example, in the Venice carnival.

The Punk style with striking costumes and colourful spiked hair styles made their appearance in the 1970s. In the 1990s, imaginary worlds of science fiction and fantasy, led to different movements like cyber-punk and diesel-punk. For example, during the 1990s, while living in Bologna (Italy), I came across groups of young persons, living as homeless urban vagabonds, with long matted hair and dogs. They were known as Punkabestia (beast-punk). The Steam-Punk movement also started in those years.

In more recent years, role-play games and fantasy worlds have become popular and are called Cosplay. I love the colourful Cosplay costumes.

Steam-Punk Philosophy

Steam-Punk ideas were influenced by writers like Jules Verne and H. G. Wells. Scientific advances made in the 18th century such as the steam-ship and steam-engines play an important role in Steam-Punk.


The term "steam-punk" originated in the late 1980s as a variant of "cyber-punk". Science-fiction writers of Steam-Punk, imagined alternative worlds based on coal and steam power. For example, American writer Paul di Filippo wrote a trilogy of steam-punk novellas in 1995.

Steam Punk is a retro-futurism - a retro (old) technology imagined as a future. It can mix digital technology with handmade art. For example, look at the amazing old rusty-looking digital camera used by the Steam-Punk enthusiast in the image below.


Steam-Punk Costumes

The steam-punk brings together modern costumes and some elements from Victorian era such as corsets, gowns and petticoats for the women, and waistcoats, long coats, top hats and bowler hats for the men.


The costumes are accompanied by accessories such as old airplane goggles, parasols, stylish guns and sling bows.


Many well known fashion brands such as Prada, Versace and Dior have come up with clothes inspired by Steam-Punk. However, the real steam-punk enthusiasts invest a lot of resources and personal imagination in creating their costumes. For example, check the beautifully made complex hats worn by the two persons in the image below!


Steam-Punk Nord-Est Association

The Steam Punk association of the north-east of Italy, whose members are featured in this post, came to Schio, where I live, during a recent cultural festival called the British Day. Among the group, they even had a look-alike queen Victoria (in the image below).


The members of this association design and wear steam-punk costumes and show them off during the different cultural festivals in the region. They also organise symposiums to present their "steam-punk" inventions and creativity.

Conclusions

As our societies become more developed and as we have more free time, I think that movements like steam-punk will become even more common. They are a way of having fun. They are also a way of organising smaller communities around a common-interest, to escape from the anonymity of the modern urban life.

For me, it was an opportunity to learn about their striking and colourful world. That day, my favourite costume was a photographer with an ancient looking camera (in the image below) though I am not sure if it worked!.


Using your fantasy, if you could create an imaginary world based in your own cultural ethos and history, what kind of worlds would you like to imagine?

***

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Hanuman, the legend of the monkey god

As a child growing up in Old Delhi (India) in early 1960s, for me sometimes the people from the ancient Hindu stories were as real, or perhaps even more real, than the actual people around me. Children's magazine Chandamama, Ramlila performances in the DCM grounds and recitations of Ramayana by visiting brahmins in the street-square near our home, had all contributed to make me familiar with the characters of Ramayana, including that of Hanuman ji.
 
Hanuman is one of the most loved Hindu deities in India. He is considered the symbol of valour, loyal service and self-control. For adolescents and young men, he is considered as the patron of Brahmcharya (celibacy) while reciting his prayer called Hanuman Chalisa is suppose to provide the believers with courage and overcoming of fears.


In this post, I want to present some of my favourite images of lord Hanuman from different parts of India, along with different stories linked to this god. The first image presented above is from Karol Bagh in Delhi, where the giant statue of Hanuman rises next to the metro line, juxtaposing the old mythologies with the modern India.

Hanuman stories in ancient Indian texts

The oldest mention of Hanuman is in Rigveda, where he is called Vrishkapi, the Vrish monkey. Besides the Hindu texts, he is also mentioned in Jainist and Buddhist texts. The stories of Hanuman can traces their origins to the ancient prehistorical oral traditions of India. Along with the spread of Hinduism and Buddhism in the far east, the legend of Hanuman also spread to countries like Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia.

The figure of Sun Wukong (monkey king) in Japanese mythology is very similar to Hanuman's story. The same Sun Wukong myths had also inspired the recent Chinese film "The Monkey King", in which Sun Wukong takes birth from a divine crystal which falls on the mount Huaguo.

The second image of Hanuman is unusual since it presents a giant green coloured statue from the Trimurthi temple in Kanakpura on the Bangalore-Mysore road in Karnataka.


Legends about the birth of Hanuman

There are two main stories linked to the birth of Hanuman. In one, he is the son of the wind god Vayu and thus, is called Vayuputra, and is born with the gift of flying. In the second story his father is an ape called Kesari (Saffron). Even in this story, Vayu, the wind god plays a role in Hanuman's birth and is thus considered his guardian.

Another legend about baby Hanuman is that once he thought that sun was a fruit and wanted to catch it and eat it. Sun allarmed, asked for help from the god Indra, who used his Vajra (thunderbolt) to stop the baby. Because of the Vajra, baby's jaw became more prominent, giving rise to his name Hanuman (prominent jaw).

The next image has Hanuman as a chimaera, a combination of different human and animal beings expressed through his five heads and ten arms.


Hanuman and the stories of Rama of Ayodhya

In the popular imagination, the figure of Hanuman is closely linked to that of Rama. Most statues and images of Hanuman present him as a Ram-bhakt, like in the image below where he is shown holding a tiny statue of Rama in his hands.


In both Valmiki's Ramayana and in Gosain Tulsi Das' "Ram Charit Manas", Hanuman first appears in Kishkindhakand chapters of the story, when the two brothers, Rama and Lakshman, searching for Sita, reach Rishyamook mountain where the Ape king Sugriva lives. When Sugriva sees them, he gets afraid, and asks Hanuman to go and find out about their intentions.

In Valmiki Ramayana, the whole episode is longer and is written in Sanskrit, while In Ram Charit Manas, it is much shorter and is written in Avadhi. In Valmiki Ramayan, Hanuman is presented first as Sugrivasachiva (सुग्रीवासचिवाः), Sugriva's commander. The next verse presents him by his name, Hanuman:
ततस्तं भयसंविग्नं वालिकिल्विषशडिन्गतम्
उवाच हनुमान्वाक्यं सुग्रीवं वाक्योकोविदाः
(To Sugriva who was afraid of Bali, the clever and articulate Hanuman said.)

In Ram Charit Manas, Hanuman is introduced in the story when Sugriva speaks to him:
"अति सभीत कह सुनु हनुमाना, पुरुष जुगल बल रूप निधाना
धरि बटु रूप देख तहँ जाई, कहेसु जानि जियें सयन बुझाई"
(Afraid Sugriva said: Hanuman, they are two strong men, go to them dressed as a Brahamchari (celibate) and try to understand about them)  
Gosain Tulsi Das is also credited with the prayer of Hanuman Chalisa (literally, "forty verses of Hanuman"), which is supposed to infuse people with courage and remove their fear. Below is another figure of Hanuman showing Rama and Sita in his heart.


Hanuman as the patron of healing herbs

During the war between Rama and Ravan in Ramayan, there is an episode where Lakshan is injured gravely and to cure him Sanjeevani booti (life-giving herb) is needed urgently.


Since Hanuman has the gift of flying, Rama asks him to go to Meru mountain and bring the herb. Hanuman, unable to identify the herb, decides to bring the whole mountain. This episode is also very popular in the Hanuman statues as shown in the image above (from Tezpur, Assam) and below (from Gangtok, Sikkim).


Metaphysical meaning of Hanuman

 In Hinduism, meanings can be understood at different levels. Thus, for common people, Hanuman is a deity, whose help they can ask for. At the same time, often the old stories have deeper metaphysical meanings in Hinduism.

For example, according to the Vedbhashya blog which looks at correlations between Quantum physics and ancient texts of Hinduism, the original story of Vrishakapi (Hanuman), is a metaphysical description of an atomic force binding the central nucleus to the sub-atomic particles moving around.

Personally, I love the way different animals and plants play a central role in different stories of Hinduism. Apart from Hanuman, a Garuda eagle called Jatayu also plays an important role in Ramayana. Two gods, Ganesha with an elephant head and, Narsimha, a half lion and half human incarnation of Vishnu, are other examples of animal-human relationships in Hindu mythology. I think that this way of looking at nature is important to promote ecological sustainability of all life on earth.

The image below presents another unusual Hanuman, where he is shown older and with a rudraksh-mala around his neck, like an ascetic giving his benediction to his followers.


Conclusions

The image below presents a tiny temple of Hanuman along the banks of Ganges in Varanasi, which has an unusual sleeping Hanuman statue.


To conclude this photo-essay about Hanuman, the last image is from a Ramlila procession in Chandani Chowk in old Delhi. The image shows the carriage of Hanuman with his Vanar sena (monkey army). The person who plays the role of Hanuman is Mr Ram Chander, a devout follower of Hanuman who has been playing this role for more than a decade.


To write this post I went through my huge image archives. I was surprised that I had so many images of Hanuman and it was not easy to choose the images for this post. I had great fun in selecting these images and in writing this post.

Do tell me which form of Hanuman ji out of the ten images presented above, did you like most?

***

Friday, 8 December 2017

Mario Converio and his iron sculptures

Italian sculptor Mario Converio is known for his sculptures in wrought iron. Though iron has been known to humanity at least for a few thousand years, its use for creating sculptures is not very common as it is difficult to work with. Mario manages to creates poetry with the metal.


Recently an exhibition of his works, "Metal Fantasies" was organised in Schio (VI, Italy), where I had an opportunity to talk to Mario. This post presents the artist Mario Converio and some of his sculptures from this exhibition.

Mario Converio

Mario lost both his parents early - his mother died when he was 2 and his father, when he was 12. His artistic journey started when he was 14 and decided to make a sculpture of his father (in the image below, Mario Converio with the bust of his father).


Mario did not attend any art academy. He was interested in art and started learning it by himself, experimenting with different materials and techniques, starting with clay and stone. He visited different parts of Europe and was inspired by ice-sculptures, after which for a period he worked with ice and glass, and participated in many international art events. One of his first metal sculptures was that of a female-butt made from a grass-cutter. Since then he likes to experiment with butts and this has brought him fame.

In 1976 he was one of the founders of artists' group of Schio. The group organises street events in which he demonstrates his wrought iron sculpting skills. They had also started some art courses.

Over the past decade he has participated in different events about wrought-iron sculptures in Italy and in different parts of Europe. He has won awards in some of them. He feels that this has been a great learning opportunity for him to see the techniques others were using and sharing his own experiences. Apart from iron, he sometimes also uses bronze and stones in his works.


He told me, "Making art is a process of trial and error. Some times, it works and I am happy with my creation. Other times, I feel that it was a mistake and it did not come out as I had imagined it."

Working with iron is hard and tiring work. Mario said, "I am 73 years old and I start to feel that I can't go on doing it for very long. It requires strength and energy of a younger person. When I was younger, I didn't use proper protections like using gloves to protect from vibrations, so that has created some complications for me."


About the sculptures in the exhibition, Mario explained that some of them were things that he had made many years ago, while others are more recent. Making of these sculptures requires time. The simple ones can be completed in a couple of weeks while big sculptures, require months of work.

Creating sculptures in wrought iron

To create the sculptures, the artist needs to choose the iron sheets which then have to be forged at high temperature. While a sheet is red hot, its shape can be molded. The iron cools quickly and thus time for shaping it for creating sculptures is short.

Mario first creates a model of his sculpture in clay, which is much easier to work with. This allows him to think of the shape he wants to create in iron and plan the process.

Though iron is a difficult metal to work with for an artist, Mario's long experience and ability makes him bring out a kind of dynamism in his sculptures, making them come alive. Beaten iron can assume different hues, from a cold bluish grey to a warm burnt sienna. These chromatic variations add to the beauty of his work.


Apart from working with sheet metal, Mario has also experimented with perforated metal sheets for creating his sculptures. Creating a sculpture with such nets, requires additional care as it needs to be shaped delicately. Some of his most suggestive works have been created in this way.

Now, let me briefly present some of his works from his "Metal Fantasies" exhibition.

Nature sculptures

Mario likes to sculpt animals and birds, with an occasional flower or a plant. Among his animal sculptures, I especially liked animals frozen in action. Among these, my favourite was a running dog, its whole body lifted in air with only a paw touching the ground. I loved this dog's expression and I could almost see its saliva drooling down its mouth.


Female form

Mario's sculptures of the rounded female buttocks are famous. He had a large number of them in the exhibition. I liked the ones where the metal's shape suggested the roundness and the female form, rather than the more explicit ones showing genitals.


My favourite among his female butt-sculptures was the one shown in the image below, made from a perforated thick iron sheet. Compared to the legs that are lateral, the upper part of the body is turned forward at an impossible angle.


Another of his sculpture, which is well known, had a nude woman wrapped around an old TV set.


Among his full body female nude sculptures my favourites were those where the body was shown frozen-in-action, like the girl doing acrobatics with a ribbon in the image below. Like the frozen-in-action animals, in all these sculptures, only small parts of the bodies were anchored to the base while most of the sculptures were in the air.


Male form

There were occasional sculptures of male nudes, buttocks and genitals among his work but they were not a prominent part of his work. Among these, my favourite was one in the image below, of a guy with a six-pack abdomen and once again, frozen-in-action body.


Conclusions

I loved Mario Converio's sculptures. I liked the way he combines abstract unformed metal, as if being torn away from its roots, and how it gently transforms into a shape, hinting at something instead of being explicit. I also liked his ability to freeze a moment in time in the metal, catching the dynamicity of an action-charged moment. They are full of drama and emotions, something which you do not expect to be so strong in a metal sculpture.


To conclude, below you will find the thumbnails of some other sculptures by Mario - click on them for a larger view. Do tell me which of Marios's sculptures presented in this post did you like the most and why!



Note: Some of the images of his sculptures presented with this post, have been modified with photo-effects and are therefore, different from how those works actually appear.

***
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