Artists

Published in a catalogue by Transpek-Silox Industry Ltd, 2004

The installation of the sculptural monument Abacus at the Akshar Chowk on the crossroads of the Old Padra Road with the Altadara Road marks the gift of yet another gateway or torana designed by sculptor Nagji Patel for the city of Vadodara. The Banyan Tree monument on the Fatehgynj crossing commissioned in 1991 has already turned into a legendary landmark of the Banyan City. The south-westerly positioning of Abacus complementing the north-eastern orientation of the Banyan monument binds the city with two heralding sculptural gateways.

To select the stones required for the Akshar Chowk project Nagji Patel scanned several stone quarries of Rajasthan. Unlike previous commissions where the search was to find a unique stone, this time it was directed towards finding a range of sandstones and marbles-each carrying a different colour tonality and surface lustre required by the design of the monument. The pinkish sandstone came from Bansi Pahadpur, the white, green and yellow marbles from Kelwa, Kesariyaji and Jaisalmer respectively. It took about 5 months with four assistants from Rajasthan to carve this 16 feet high sculpture weighing twenty tons.

A desire to make sculpture with the idea of a small element piercing and holding aloft a mightier one leg Nagji Patel to try variations on the theme. This interest fructified in encounter with the form of the Abacus, the traditional Chinese computing device. This implement with its rows of beads strung into a frame is also a child’s learning toy: its playfulness must surely have struck a chord in the sculptor’s imagination. The challenging task was to strike a balance between the form of this toy - like object of utility with the massive proportion of a monument. It also meant developing a delicate equilibrium of playfulness and gravity, something that has remained a life-long concern for Nagji Patel.

The Abacus however adds new dimensions to his oeuvre. The arrangement of stones of variegated colour tonalities marks a departure from the tradition of single colour sculptures that have been the hallmark of such modern Indian Sculpture. Here, diversity and coexistence is symbolised through a series of multi-coloured discs pierced and pieced together to form the body of the Abacus. Two sandstone columns hold the discs and an invisible bar joins them. There is virtuoso performance here, an unusual élan beyond Nagji’s understated mystery of his materials. A sound and craftsmanly technique has always been associated with his work. With Abacus he has daringly opened spaces for new discourse.

Vadodara has led the way in commissioning public sculpture over the years through private and public sector enterprise. By sponsoring this befitting monument Transpek-silox Industry Ltd., have made a valuable contribution to that tradition.

Published in a catalogue by Transpek-Silox Industry Ltd, 2004
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