Jagannath Panda does not fit the standard definition of an artiste. Rather than be constrained by the narrow confines of a particular form of expression, he has dabbled –in fact excelled – in several art forms like painting, sculpture, photography, graphics.. you name it. One among the promising world class modern artistes, Jagannath Panda has received worldwide accolades for his diverse body of work. He won the Lalit Kala Academi Award in 1990 and the All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society Award in 1996. He has exhibited his work at many international venues including London, Tokyo, San Francisco, New York and Singapore.
Termed the ‘Mahendra Singh Dhoni of Indian Art’, Panda was born and brought up in Bhubaneswar but lives and works in New Delhi. In this interview with OdishaDiary editor, Rashmi Ranjan Parida, Jagannath Panda talks about his work and his love for Odisha.
RRP: How did you get attracted towards art?
JP: From my childhood, I was attracted towards art and paintings. After 10th standard, I joined BK Art College. After completing BFA in Sculpture from B.K. College of Arts and Crafts in Bhubaneshwar in 1991, I joined MFA in Sculpture at the Faculty of Fine Arts in M.S. University in Baroda in 1994. Later I joined as a visiting researcher at Fukuoka University of Education in Fukuoka, Japan and completed MFAin Sculpture from the Royal College of Arts in London.
How did Jagganth Panda evolve as an artist?
As an artist, I evolved due to the support of many people - my family, critics, the artiste community, fans and others. There are several artistes whose works have impacted my art and my sensibilities towards art. Their blessings, intellectual support and criticism have helped me evolve as an artiste. I feel I still have a long way. I am an eternal learner.
What does art mean to you?
For me, art is an experience of life. You know any art form comes through your inner experiences. An artiste's experience gets translated into his art. Art has many layers of experiences. It may be the artiste’s intellectual journey or aesthetic or political or day to day life. My works illustrate the surrounding I live in, where I am a silent witness to and participant of these events and happenings. My art practices revolve around these principles.
These are metaphors for my art works. It may be the city’s tensions, as over-development threatens natural habitats and infrastructures.
What is your view on commodification of art? Do you think Art auctions have been a corrupting influence?
I don’t think there is any degradation of art involved here. It depends on people. If art is not coming out of the experiences and from the heart of an artiste, you may term it as degradation of art. I look at art as something that fuels my thoughts process. Through art, I always look at society on a larger scale. I don’t think there is any commodification of art.
Thing is, if people like your art, they try to possess it. You cannot stop people from buying art works or their love towards art. So, I find nothing wrong in the buying of art.
What are the major challenges for an artiste today and what are the opportunities in the world stage now?
Opportunities have certainly increased for the artist in the last one decade. An artist coming out of college has galleries, art collectorates and art residencies to exhibit his/her talent. Artists are now coming out of their locality and exploring the world of possibilities. The only thing that need to be addressed is that our art education should be more comprehensive and dynamic which would enable our artists to challenge every established convention in the world.
I think individual artists from India will increasingly be seen to be significant contributors to the global art scene. In the absence of the State’s responsibility in contributing to improve and enhance the infrastructure for art, whether it is at the university level or at the institutional level, the private sector in India has played an important role. However, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to try and increase the presence ofart in the larger public consciousness.
Of late, many artists coming from Odisha are getting international acclaim. Do you think this is a kind of renaissance in the making?
In Odisha, the kind of art language artists are building is not based on any particular schooling or theory. I believe Odia culture and history is glorious. So I think our artists carry the inherent qualities and genes of Odia art and culture which is world famous for ages.
We can't, however, call it a renaissance. Alot of diversities are coming up in Odia art now. Art practices in Odisha are diverse and the possibilities are immense. Our artists are doing very well in these aspects. Now Odia artists are doing great things in different things.
There are two young artists now practicing in Delhi - Parivartan and Sujit. They are trying to perform different and crazy things. They entered the suburbs of Delhi and exhibited their art inside the dump of Delhi and making good art there. They are doing a marvelous job. No artists dare to do the same. This is the kind of energy and madness coming out of our Odia artists. We have to support and recognize their energy and innovation and let them grow. Our artists have fire so we just need to channelize it.
Once a critic said to me that there are so many incredible artists coming from Odisha, but the only problem with them is that they don’t know what to paint.
What are the challenges facing Odia artists? The support system in Odisha for an artist is very discouraging. How do you think the government can address the issue?
The biggest problem in Odisha is lack of institutions and institutional dynamic. Recently, I went to San Francisco for an exhibition. I came to know that San Francisco has a waste management department which is linked to the art program department. Can you believe how they think creatively!. Odisha can certainly do a bit in this direction.
Now- a- days, the state government is putting lot of money on cultural activities. So we need to think how these funds can be utilized in a proper way.
Is there any scope for a PPP model to encourage art in Odisha?
Public private partnership (PPP) is not a new idea. If you enter any art museum or gallery in a western country, you will find every room and space is sponsored by private parties or persons. The way they participate in art in these countries is really praiseworthy. Their names are displayed prominently for their contribution.
There is accountability; so everyone desire to contribute. If a person publicly feels that an institution belongs to him/her, then s/he will feel more responsible and contribute more for the promotion of the organization. So we must follow that pattern. The idea needs to be replicated in our state.
Now Odisha Government is planning a modern museum in Bhubaneswar. The state Government should invite the corporate and public sector to support this endeavor as our capital city badly needs a world class art museum.
Which painters do you admire and get inspired by?
I don’t believe that any one artist can produce all the great work. But I must say I have been hugely influenced by Japanese conceptual artist On Kawara and the work of Louise Bourgeois. In my early stage, I was influenced by Vivan Sundaram.
From my student days, I have been hugely influenced by artiste Dinanath Pathi. He gave me enough support personally when I was studying at BK ART College, Bhubaneswar. He gave me incredible support and enough confidence to grow as an artist. He used to tell me “You must be confident”. That helped me a lot to shape my career. I was also inspired by Deba Patnaik, J.P Dash and so many from my state. Among other artists I admire the work of Sudarshan Sethi.
How you connect with Odisha through your art?
My thoughts, practices and ideas about art have always been influenced by my Odia roots, culture and history. People usually call me an Odia artist living in Delhi. That is my identity. I love my state and am proud for my Odia origin. I was born and grew up in Odisha so it is perhaps only natural that I love to carry my Odia identity everywhere. When you look at my older art, you find they are influenced by the Western and the alien. But now, my art is very much traditional.
Any plans to open art centre or any related project in Odisha?
We have recently founded the Ustha Foundation. The main aim and objectiveof the foundation is to promote Odisha's art, culture and tradition. I have suggested to the state Government to set up an art museum in Bhubaneswar. We are also working on this with the help of the state government. We have already apprised the Chief Minister and concerned department officials of our plans.
What is your message to young artists?
Just believe in yourself, be confident and keep exploring. They should practice art consistently whatever may be the result. They should live, think and sleep with arts. Then their art will be powerful and authentic.