Rajkumari Sharma Tankha
Out of the World, the Eighth solo show by Ambala-based artist Sanjay Dhawan at the Open Palm Court Gallery, India Habitat Centre (New Delhi) last week was truly completely out of the world experience. Each of the works by Dhawan, made using corrugated cardboards, was breathtakingly beautiful.
Dhawan started working with corrugated cardboard in 2010, basically to carve a niche for himself in the big, wide world of art. After having witnessed the show, I can easily say that he has achieved his purpose. There were 100 works on display at the show which included several wall pieces made for aesthetic purposes and some utility items like wall mirrors and small tables. “A number of visitors to my earlier shows on the same theme had advised me to try my hand at creating home décor pieces so I started making stools, mirrors and wall clocks,” he says.
Perhaps this is the best thing about Dhawan. He takes each and every feedback and suggestion from his visitors, be they art connoisseurs or novices seriously. Again, as advised by the visitors to his show, he has kept the price range of his art works competitive; the works range between Rs 6,900 and Rs 50,000. “The range has been deliberately kept low so that anyone who likes my works can buy it without having a second thought about the financial implications,” he says.
Prior to trying his creative genius with cardboard, Dhawan used to paint like any other artist with oil on canvas. But unlike many others, he targeted the West as the market for his works. Accordingly, most of his works were packed off to the US, the UK, Canada and Australia.
While he was getting decent financial returns, Dhawan was not satisfied. Reason: He didn’t want to be another run-of-the-mill artist. “I wanted to stand out of the crowd. I knew that in the West they have great regard to the artists doing ‘out of the box’ works. They value your creativity and the labour you put into making an art piece. I used to think as to what I could do to distinguish myself,” he says, standing amid his corrugated cardboard works.
Then, one day while packing one of his paintings, a thought just struck him, why not use this packing material to make an art piece. Perhaps, it was a divine voice that was speaking to him. He searched the Internet to find if there was any artist who was into painting on cardboard boxes. On finding none, he decided to go ahead with it.
“I wanted to develop my own signature style and do something no one had done before. And today, I claim to be the only one in the world doing this work,” he says humbly.
Dhawan sources the raw material for these artworks through industries which sell used packing material as scrap. “In fact, they are too happy that someone is picking up their waste. And I am happy that I get my raw material easily,” he says. He then cuts the board into different shapes, sticks them together and then paint. While most of his works are abstract paintings, he has given a title to each. There is a painting titled Ego which shows a white eye hidden amid lots of colour. “Ego is vain so without colour,” he remarks.
Born in 1964, Sanjay is quite passionate about art. He won his first prize in a drawing competition when he in class 3. Throughout school, he won a number of awards and prizes but the thought of plunging fulltime into his passion was always put in abeyance due to his family responsibilities. “My father had passed away when I was small and being the elder son, I had a lot of responsibility towards my mother and siblings. So studying engineering and then getting a job was the only logical way forward,” he says, adding, “I wanted to be a fulltime artist but couldn’t be one initially,” he says.
So, Sanjay worked as an engineer till his mind could no longer override his heart. It was in 2010 that he finally quit his job and plunged into art. “I put all my money and life’s resources into my art as, at my deathbed, I didn’t want to have any regret that I didn’t try,” he says “that was the driving force.”