Beautiful waste

Serene mosaic figures rise out of the courtyard at Pallant House Gallery, the subject of a new exhibition displaying the eclectic work of the late Nek Chand (1924-2015). The renowned Indian artist died just a few days before the exhibition opened in mid-June, giving this show special significance.

Chand was born in 1924 in the village of Berian Kala, in what is now Pakistan. In 1947, he relocated to India with his family. As his day job he was a public roads inspector, but in the evenings he began to mould figures out of recycled and found materials including shells, cooking pots, broken crockery, glass bangles and electrical fittings.

Chand, who as entirely self-taught, would make the body of each figure from a mixture of cement and sand, before covering it with discarded objects. The resulting sculptures are highly tactile but also transcendently beautiful.

“Nek Chand is a deeply spiritual man, fascinated by the mystical significance of rocks,” said the curators of the exhibition, which is taking place at the gallery in Chichester, southern England. “Chand believed that each figure contained the spirit of a human being, god or goddess,” they added.

“His process is indicative of many historically renowned Outsider artists, with a focus on found objects and recycled materials,” they said.

Chand’s singular vision reached new heights when he started to build his own secret Rock Garden in 1958. He acted upon a vision from a dream, cutting back a clearing in the jungle just outside his city. At this time, Chand was living in Chandigarh in northern India, also known as The City Beautiful.

To continue reading about Nek Chand, read the July/August issue of The Kurios. 

Photo courtesy of Pallant House Gallery.