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Made of junk, but crafted with art

Those who turned up their nose at the idea of mayor Subrata Mukherjee opening the British Council-organised ‘Reclaimed’ on Wednesday evening at the Birla Academy of Art and Culture, had forgotten that this exhibition on recycling in contemporary British craft and design had, perhaps, the hidden agenda of providing inspiration for the city fathers on how to reuse garbage.

However, the mayor seemed impervious to the message that this wonderful exhibition sent out clearly enough. For, here was a group of British artists who worked exclusively with junk but who created objects, some utilitarian, high on aesthetic quality. Apart from the playfulness, wit and inventiveness with which they used the material, what really impressed was the technical finesse with which each exhibit was created. Artists such as Partha Pratim Deb, too, have used discarded material but many of the British artists’ creations can actually be used in everyday life.

Andy Hewitt, for instance, has developed Metzzo, that combines cement with crushed bottles and makes very functional but beautifully-crafted furniture that glows in light. Lotta Barlach makes exquisite dresses from used surgical gloves, and the metal and plastic sheets used to pack medicines. Whether they can be worn or not is debatable, but she admittedly has a sense of occasion.

There are others who were only interested in creating works of art without giving much thought to usability. Val Hunt's send-off on sci-fi films (intergalactic ornaments) and Justine Smith's elegant papier mache dog are beautifully crafted. Lucy Casson used tin thrown away to create sculpture that looks quite sinister. Perhaps, ultimately, these artists will help us find a solution to our garbage problem.

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