‘Life and Death Play Major Roles in My Life and Art’

WHO Originally from Bhubaneswar, Odisha, the now Delhi-based Jagannath Panda, 41, was a visiting researcher at the Fukuoka University of Education, Japan. He’s also completed a second master’s degree in fine sculpture from the Royal College of Art, London. This Lalit Kala Akademi awardee’s work has been displayed at the Hockney Gallery, London, and the KHOJ International Exhibition at British Council, New Delhi.

Jagannath Panda 41, Artist
Jagannath Panda 41, Artist

An incident that changed your artistic vision?
Travelling to Japan in 1997. It was the first time I travelled outside of India. The people, the artists and curators I met, the museums I saw opened up doors for me. Especially the Japanese art and culture. When I came back to Delhi, I could work with an increased understanding of my art.
Is there a vision you’ve never been able to transmit into art but wish you could have?
I once visited the Konark temple in Odisha. There were so many abandoned stone sculptures lying around. I wanted to collect those stones and create a commemorative sculpture. That never happened. The idea is still fresh in my head, yet whenever I go back to the temple, I can’t find those stones anymore.
Who is your biggest mentor?
I thought knowledge was the ultimate mentor. However, I discovered Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. He encouraged me to look at my work in my own way, free from societal constraints, of how other people wanted me to create.
What has been your greatest moment of distress, fear or exhilaration?
The worst moment of my life was when I lost my mother. It changes everything about a person. My art, my understanding of life and people, all underwent an upheaval. On the other hand, the most exhilarating moment was when my son was born. Both life and death have had a major part to play in my life and art.
How important are the city landscapes to you? What part do Delhi and Bhubaneswar play?
The story of a city is a metaphor I enjoy. People, animals and birds all flock to cities and form their own little utopias. Yet, there are also tales of displacement and departures. Delhi allowed me to look beyond myself. Here, I encounter new thoughts and ideas each day, yet the aggression of its people still scares me. Bhubaneswar remains an intimate space, one of memories.
Aradhna Wal is a Trainee, Features with Tehelka.