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The Wheel, aptly coined as a force of life, is synonymous with change, movement, growth and even spirituality. Ankit Patel presents his associations and connotations of the Wheel in a medium over which he has immense control.
The wheel as a force of life reveals Ankit’s leanings towards his early memories and associations of village life and farming. A master of the kinetic art form, Ankit’s men and women, and in this case, the quintessential wheel are quietly yet unequivocably forceful. The strength and vigour of his forms are complemented with rhythm and peotic grace. Patel’s melodious sculptures sing. His gentle and contemporary works sing of the rich cultural heritage that supports them and one forgets that these are inanimate forms of Patel’s creation.

A different story
It’s been on his mind since he was in the 8th grade – “give me a cycle or I won’t give my exam.” Ankit missed the exam but he took on the wheel of creation in his own way. Motion change and progress must have played on his sub-conscious – even the artist didn’t know that he was moving forward as an artist. That that same wheel of the cycle that was so essential to him was going to emerge as the focus of his latest collection of 25 sculptures in bronze. The essence of his work with the wheel is – it may go faster, it may go slower, sometimes but it will never return to its original position, of non-being and non-having.
The wheel moves through phases of life, taking on different meanings, telling a different story and always conveying an intensity that is synonymous with change, progression and a completeness that stems from constant incompleteness – a movement will stagnate if it reaches a completeness, growth and evolution will come to a stop. For Ankit, the sculptor, it can never stop. The wheel rotates, turns, tilts, jumps over bumps, rises out of rain drenched earth, goes racing down gleefully but it can’t stop. That sense of motion is not just simple mechanics, it’s a journey of the soul, within and outside of itself. A soul sensitive to the world that surrounds, to life and its footfalls.
His art is not conceived in a vacuum, it’s an outcome of visual imageries. His native village, Mota Varachha gives him his imagination. The floating, lyrical rhythm of rural life is intensified in his mind space. Simple folk traditions, even farm equipment are Ankit’s means of creation. The flow of life is an endless pursuit. An aura of serenity surrounds the shapes, as if in sync with a living pulse. Earthly charm and quietitude, a will to exit ‘just like this’ comes from all his forms.
Three children racing down an incline. Their faces bare, the bodies eloquent. There is sheer joy, a sense of freedom and escape into speed, the breeze hitting their faces, the thrill of it all. The sculpture speaks – tales unfold and a drama gets enacted. These are not just lumps of clay, they become living moulds. Liquid plaster fills the clay, wax coats it. Brick powder protects. Fired and buried in the earth. Melted bronze is poured over it like a final ablution. The sculpture emerges the way its creator had imagined. Kinetic art incorporates actual movement as a part of design. It’s a dynamic combination of artistic strengths – motion, the wheel, the understanding of the circle of life and the artist’s grasping his subject with a basic, simple approach.
Ankit’s ‘wheels’ speak of an earthy charm, emotions are let loose in fluid motions. Simplicity and freedom are mated. With thirty years of creating motion and action in static sculpture, picking up primeval vibrations from life as a creative forces, just lifting moments as they happen and holding them in his ‘cast’, Ankit has picked up a tailor on his sewing machine, a knife sharpener, a pair of children doing a circus balancing act to relate to the world how he has lived his life and how he views it now. Man in the stone age, the middle ages and the contemporary man are shown controlling speed and progress or is it that they are being controlled by the very same motions? “These are people from my village, they don’t even realize how much the wheel has helped them move forward unwittingly, yet the connections are there, being made by the artist.
Vallabh Complate, the tailor, a puncture repair man, Tikam the potter, Parag paan wala are the subjects of Ankit’s sculptured moments. All expressions are conveyed by the alignment of their bodies in motion, the form and texture. Parag paan wala has a bucket of betel leaves need a fine fabric to remain fresh, Ankit uses a fine bronze mesh to suit the need. A couple is on a journey with a trunk and an umbrella. They hold hands and walk together, like two wheels moving to complement each other. That’s life….
There is strength in the muscles even without a ripple in the sinews. A dramatic turn of the wheel, Abhimanyu’s attempt in the Mahabharata to escape the ‘chakravyuh’ is frozen in space, the tension is palpable only through the flexing of the limbs. Folds of fabric in their rustic, crumpled state are used but the movement of the body within is clear.
Minimalistic strokes, strong lines, clear images unfold a tale. A life that has been lived simply, a life that looks back to the ‘how, when and why’, has no regrets and moves on to recreate a joyous expression of innate experiences – each of the sculptures hark back to this sentiment. The wheel of passing time, of progress, of modernization has made the artist turn inwards to go back where it all started. The wheel of the bullock cart, the cycle are his way to trace and remain in touch with his roots with a whole hearted acceptance of the modern day progress…he sees a wheel turning in a computer’s mouse.

Mita Kapur, Jaipur
CEO, Siyahi
(A literary consultancy)

Of art and life
Ankit Patel’s recent drawings and their virtual translation into metal are a statement to the fact that drawing is essential to a creative artist. It is the most basic element with which art begins and ends. Its basic character aligns it with a concept which is necessary to formulate and express a work of art, whatever the format may be. Ankit, the sculptor seems to be saying, ‘one has to go back to the basics to remind oneself of the roots’. The thought applies most metaphorically to the subject matter of the exhibition, the drawings and the sculptural pieces. The focus of artist’s attention is his past. His past speaks through linear drawings and metallic sculptures. The true to life characters drawn by the artist have been culled from his childhood when as a child he lived in the dusty and small village of Motavaracha. The village may not find a place in any geographical map of the country; nevertheless, it says etched on the mental landscape of the artist. In the present series, like the Wordsworthian emotions the memories are ‘recollected in tranquility.’

Ankit Patel has once again come up with a statement that underlines the creative compulsions of an artist. Every artist has a history of his own. In Ankit’s case a verbal expostulation would have been difficult as he has always spoken through his work. His exhibition at Gallery Art And Soul, Mumbai, from 11th January to 7th February,’08, is a journey back into those early experiences that shaped the psyche of the artist. The small village of Motavaracha has always been there showing its glimpse in the artist’s work yet this is perhaps for the first time that he has felt compelled to bring out the personal history so completely through his work. Yet it is not the personal that is of essence. It is the universal that emerges from the personal history that interests the artist as well as the viewer. As an artist Ankit has always drawn inspiration from everyday life. His abstract, realistic, giant or small sculptures have been shaped by the memory of spinning wheels, tops moving in circles or weaving spindle that his father used. The flow, the easy circular lines of his metal sculpture or the kinesis of the wind sculptures all have maintained a unity of theme. In spite of the unity of approach and themes, the current display has clean swept any repetitive residue and it stands in all the freshness of childhood memories.

The drawings have the flow and effortless quality that normally comes with the clarity of image one has in the mind. As it is, the artist has kept the wondering child alive in himself. He has never been away from the images from his past. He has, albeit, interpreted the same through the modern idiom of sculpture. Of course the flow that is so noticeable in Ankit’s work emerges from the mastery he has over lines and what they say. On a subliminal level the two basics, the drawing, and the past where the basics of life reside, merge as a whole and become one. The wonder, the artist felt as a child for all the things around him, the people, the objects, the movement, finds expression in the work he does. The village Motavaracha has walked from the pages of artist’s childhood history and it now stands alive in front of the viewer as quaint and humble characters. It is gallery of artistic creations that is poignant with meanings meaning that has levels of depth. The subtitle to the brochure ‘a short walk into a long distance’ is, thus, very evocative. The motif of wheel has recurred in almost all the works to stand as a symbol parallel to life. While the drawings’ fluidity shows the movement, the three dimensional sculptures have still more energy and rhythm of a living being.

Bapa, the tall, lanky man, the artist’s father, walked in long strides and believed in doing things with his hands as all his fellow men did. His umbrella, the turban and the flow of the dhoti show him to be a man of purpose. Baa’s simple, yet stoic character shows with her hands around her knees and the posture of patient wait for the drops of water to fill the utensils. The rammat series depicts how children find fun in small things like the top, the wheel and the bow and arrow. Their energies have powerful kinesis as built in the sculptures. Dahi Ben’s yoghurt churning, a child’s stroller in rammat 4, Narottam Dholki’s rhythmic gyrations, Keshav kanki’s ramshackle cart trolley to carry his wares, and Mohammad Bambavala mechanical contraption all have wheel as the centre point. Parag Panvalo, Ratio Suttar and Kushal Hazzam are individuals in their own right with distinctive features to make them unique. The village life revolves around them. Every character with a given name evokes either a vocation or some quality. If Mohammad Bumbavalo is known and noted for his pointed beard, Kushal Hazzam brings memories of clean headed shaves or the military cut. Parag Panvalo with his beetle leaves and nuts, masalas and the constant smoke coming from his beedi represents a work a day chapter in a village. Tikam Kumbhar’s potter’s wheel connects well with diminutive ponio who used to make scarecrows out of earthen pots. Vallabh Complate’s tailoring machine’s wheels and Kanwarji Mama’s gourd (again a round) string musical instrument deal with circular shapes. All the characters have been given their original names and this generates an intimacy between the viewer and the object of art. With one single stroke of creative finesse from the sculptor, the onlooker gets a peek into the lives of people so far away from his own world. The viewer does get the feel that there must have been so much fun in the life of a child in the village. The artist has recorded a certain way of life in an Indian Village that is fast disappearing; giving way to a life style that is not indigenous. Such nostalgia when translated into a positive art statement becomes a record of artist’s personal history, the history of a region, and a time frame all at once. A certain robust vitality flows from the works. This is so as the sculptor has been able to capture the life force that defines a particular, unique individual recreated.

The image of the wheel stands in the centre of Ankit’s works in this series and in almost all his work done before. His lyrical style can be defined in terms of circular movements, round strokes or flow that moves, connects and ends in circles. It is no coincidence that majority of the Motavaracha characters have the same quality. The wheel, defines not only the artist’s style, it has also stayed with him as an evocative image for a bygone era. The metaphor or wheel has fascinated artists and thinkers since times immemorial. The image of wheel has always existed in human life as a philosophical idea as well as a reality symbolizing completeness, progression and change. It exists as basic to all mechanical development, and also stands as a strong metaphor for a spiritual basis to life. The universal image of Chakra was the emblem of king Ashoka’s kingdom and today it signifies Indian identity on the flag. It was also found in the carvings of medieval churches in Europe. Eastern philosophy abounds in myths of cycle of life and death and of life and death beings one. In its simplicity, the image represents creations that are basic to rural life as well as the most artistic works of art. It has culminated as the liet motif of Ankit’s work. Like Keats’ Ode to Grecian Urn, the wheel stands for transition as well as permanence. The seeming contradiction stands as a corollary to life that incorporates regeneration in decay, creation in destruction and eternity in temporality.

Dr. Mridul Bhasin, Jaipur
Art Critic and Writer