The clink of metal against metal, the flying embers during welding and the clunk of a hammer against nails is common in India. One has grown up watching scrap-dealers at work but little is known about the scrap that reaches them in the first place. Much of these objects are metal discard, old digital gadgets, nails, tools, etc. The reusability of these items which are hard to degrade is huge.
Gopal Namjoshi is an independent public arts installation artist and muralist working in arts crafts and design who uses metal to sculpt out installations that promote harmony and coexistence with nature. His innovative and unique methods in the last two decades have carved a niche across media styles and sustainable methods. It was in 1998 when Gopal was doing murals in Jaipur when his team decided to use old office digital equipment instead of discarding it. The result was a mural of a human head that was made for PTECH, a software and hardware training institute. In time he learned how to weld metal and scraps, and soon became involved with metal items that were declared useless. The intent behind his genius installations is to promote harmonious coexistence between all living beings, proof in his many larger-than-life animal structures.
In 2008, it was challenging to explain to a scrap's dealer why he required all this metal junk which, while extremely sustainable, required much work in terms of cleaning: greasing and scraping, etc. before it was made reusable. His first installation was a peacock a bird that was reminiscent of his childhood. The sculpture was made of steel spoons, ladels and sieves collected from a local scrap yard in Delhi. Gopal Namjoshi perceives art as birthing new life by reconstructing narratives from scratched, broken, damaged and discarded iron objects with meaningful and provocative interventions in communities to highlight the absence of the coexistence of life, through material and methods sustainably chosen and appropriated for the context.
Metal Art: Gopal Namjoshi collects art from small and medium vendors and uses them as they are, without any distortion or change. The sourced junk material undergoes a few stages of cleaning before it is ready to use. He tries to use natural cleaners (salt, vinegar, baking soda, hot sand pits) than the industrial toxic ones to rub off the grease, dirt and rust from the surfaces.
The junk is first kept in hot sand burning them for melting grease and oils, followed by scrubbing with steel wool, sandpaper, wire brush etc. An overnight soak in vinegar in large tubs or at times multiple days of soaking for bigger and greasier parts too. Sanding, grinding and scrubbing of junk to make them ready to use/weld/assemble is a laborious as well as a meticulous process. A large installation (like life size installation) takes 60 - 90 days, with a team of 4-5 skilled, welders and helpers (training the team for a specific style of welding, fixing, maintaining itself is a trying process) of this time 40% of time is purely collecting the junk and cleaning. However, collecting is also an on-the-go-process, at time I invest in whenever a particular shape of some material attracts me but it’s a highly tedious process with the unorganised sector of junk dealers and helpers he deals with.
Once the installation is ready it is scrubbed, however, most times Gopal Namjoshi keeps the story of those used surfaces intact by just rubbing elbow grease and brushing 2-3 coats of lacquer than applying any paint. He prefers keeping it natural and enjoying the weathered surfaces while preventing further rust.
The pieces are then segregated by their shape and volume following which a drawing of the shape of the artwork is created. Then there is an armature by mild steel before the scrap pieces are welded one on the other for the structure.
Gopal believes sustainable habits must be inculcated from childhood, and one must rethink reusability of a product before it is blindly discarded. He has used plastic caps of toothpastes to cardboard boxes, paint boxes to metal springs to create toys, sculptures, decorative garden planters, etc. Just a dash of imagination with a need to change existing ways of ignorance. His work is largely inspired by nature's abundant beauty and laws of conservation that utilises and includes different life forms to give back to future generations and the earth, what it gives to us.
His wonderful works of art have been installed in several public places and include narratives of nature through discarded metal scraps to encourage and highlight harmonious coexistence.