One day graphic artist Orijit Sen’s college-going daughter Pakhi came home from her part-time job as an assistant at an art gallery in Delhi. When Sen asked about her experience, she said, “I just have to follow people around, and I have to keep telling them, ‘Don’t touch anything’.”
Her reply sparked a thought in Sen’s mind. “Why can’t I create an artwork that encourages people to touch it?” Around the same time, curator Sudarshan Shetty invited him to be a part of this year’s Kochi-Muziris Biennale.
Sen made three artworks that are on display as part of the installation titled Going Playces at Aspinwall House, Fort Kochi. The biennale is on till March 29.
Some pieces have been taken out from the 30-foot wide exhibit, From Punjab with Love, and placed on a table. “One has to try and put the piece on the right spot on the painting. Every piece has a magnet at the rear,” Sen says.
This work is a smaller version of a 246-feet long mural on display at the Virasat-e-Khalsa Museum in Anandpur Sahib, Punjab. It is like a drone’s eye view of life in Punjab—farmers working in fields, women washing clothes, children flying kites and buffaloes wading into a pond. “It took me a few weeks to finish this painting as compared to the original version that was made in two-and-a-half years,” says the 54-year-old.
In the next room is an artwork on Hyderabad’s Charminar. And the third installation is of the Mapusa market in Goa. “While the Punjab and Mapusa works have been printed digitally and pasted on high-density fibrewood panels, the Charminar installation has been made with acrylic and goatskin,” he adds.
In front of the Charminar artwork lies is a puzzle that needs to be solved by placing pieces into slots. If one solves it, the Charminar artwork lights up.
Sen says, “Before the biennale, Hyderabad art collector Prshant Lahoti invited me to set up a piece of public art in the city.” His research was a voyage of discovery into the soul of the city.
“On the surface, Hyderabad is an aspirational IT hub. But it has a lot of cars, flyovers and steel buildings. As I started to dig deeper, I realised that this city has a history, unlike any of the so-called cosmopolitan cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, which are all colonial cities set up by the British,” says Sen, who is planning a public art installation incorporating these ideas.