The Kurnool-born, Hyderabad-bred and Delhi-nurtured artist Harsha Durugadda prefers interactive art to the time-tested format of exhibiting paintings and sculptures that the audience can just gaze at. He would rather have visitors touch, feel and engage with art and have conversations. His first solo show in Hyderabad, ‘Fragments in Motion’, invites visitors to be both playful and observant. A combination of materials go into making these interactive sculptures. Metal, stone, indigenous juliflora wood and even automobile tyres come together to form a larger narrative.
Harsha grew up in Hyderabad in a family that discussed art and philosophy in equal measure. He had a fair exposure to fine arts early on, but doing a course in art and aesthetics in Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and the frequent meeting with artists in the Capital led to new ways of looking at art. He refers to the time spent in Delhi as his incubation period.
One of his earlier installations, the ‘Column of Sound’ that builds on the visual dynamics of an audio wave, fetched him the Rio Tinto Sculpture Award at the 2017 Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe exhibition in Australia. “It was an honour to receive an international recognition so early in my career,” he says, referring to the visibility that came with it.
In 2018, his installation ‘Selfish- Love’ was awarded the Biafarin Award along with 10 other artists at NordArt 2018 in Germany. This work is now exhibited at the entrance of Kalakriti art gallery, Hyderabad.
‘Selfish Love’ is a multimedia-enabled sculpture that actually weighs a ton. It wasn’t easy transporting and installing it at the gallery with the help of a crane, but Harsha emphasises that the exercise is worth it. Resembling a multitude of discs sliced and then fused over one another to look like a fragmented fish, the installation has a hollow column on one side that allows visitors to peek in and view an audio visual clipping on American psychiatrist Abraham J Twerski’s thoughts on true love.
Harsha explains, “When someone says he or she loves fish, the meaning has become so skewed that it refers to them killing the fish and consuming it. True love for the fish would ideally mean letting it thrive in its natural environment.”
A rocking horse kind of installation titled ‘Why don’t you find out for yourself’ inside the gallery is open to interpretation, as its multiple elements sway in motion when you step on it. Among the other exhibits are a series of spinning tops that stem from the artist’s childhood memories of the colourful Etikoppaka toys. The spinning motion and the whirling dervishes are themes that Harsha artist has dealt with in his earlier works as well.
As an extension of the concept of Selfish Love, another work in the gallery titled ‘Fish love’ illuminates the word ‘selfish’ in English, Telugu and Urdu. Made for Hyderabad, this installation is Harsha’s way of localising art to make it inclusive to those from the city who are conversant with Telugu or Urdu.
Harsha likes the tactility of works and encourages visitors to touch the material, the pigments (one of the sculptures uses kumkum to give it a unique texture) and draw their own interpretations.
Fragments in Motion is on view at Kalakriti art gallery, Banjara Hills, till December 28, during which there will be occasional panel discussions and performance art sessions.