Material Queen

Medium is the message in renowned sculptor Latika Katt's works

Philosophy, psychology and science — Latika Katt believes those are the three essentials of a sculpture, with the sculptor needing to go "within oneself" to create art out of stone, metal and earth. As the marble dust fills the air and the hammer starts to chisel the piece of stone, Katt's eyes light up at the sight as work begins at the 10-day sculpture camp at the Chandigarh Museum. Organised by the Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi, the workshop will have Katt working closely with nine sculptors from the city. She hopes that the interaction will go beyond technical exchanges and know-how.

For someone who is making the tallest bronze sculptures in the country and still works with cow dung on the ghats of Varanasi, the pictorial and visual quality of a sculpture is vital to her. She creates without inhibitions and dares to defy convention to create art with a soul.

It hasn't been an easy journey for the 60-something Katt, as sculpture was considered a 'man's domain'. The sculptor admits she worked "four times harder" than her classmates at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and later at the Baroda College of Art to prove she could do it. "Probably, being one of the five girls among 51 boys at the Doon School helped me to face challenges, handle situations and setbacks without fear and with confidence," reminisces Katt.

Stone carving and metal casting, she agrees, is both physically and mentally taxing, as she talks about working with her favourite medium, bronze, and the many years she has spent studying experimental sculpture in the medium, both in India and abroad. "Close to my heart are two works in bronze — a 20-feet tall Indira Gandhi being done for the city of Hyderabad and one of Nehru in the same size, which was established in the 20th year of Independence at Jawahar Bhawan in New Delhi," says she. Casting in bronze is completely different from working in stone, shares Katt, as one starts from scratch, unlike stone, where there is a form and shape to work on. "Once you have chalked out the concept and content, it's hard labour," says Katt.

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