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Art taught by nature, perfected by practice

Poet William Wordsworth had once said: “Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher.”

Accepting nature as his mentor, Shubhendu Biswas, the man behind Tata zoo’s elephant and dinosaur topiaries, learnt to conjure aesthetic forms from wood, terracotta, concrete and scrap iron.

Fifty-two-year-old Biswas, who is gearing up to take part in a group show at Gallery Gold in Calcutta in April, said he felt great that after 18 years of perseverance, his work was finally being noticed.

“It all started at the first edition of annual flower show in 1989. I came across driftwood sculptures and immediately realised that this was my calling,” said Biswas, whose works adorn major arteries and parks of the steel city.

He added that he was self-taught. “I learnt all about art from observing the world around me,” Biswas said.

“I learnt life study by observing animals. I once caught a frog to study its anatomy for a project. I never thought of pursuing art as a career in my school days. It came out much later in life,” he added.

The artiste further said he worked for some time at Indian Cable Company, till it shut down in the late 90s.

“Since then, I have focused on my art. My first exposure was when I showcased 20 sculptures made of driftwood at the same flower show where I was inspired to pursue art,” Biswas said, adding that officials at the Jusco nursery helped him collect roots and driftwood he needed.

Biswas got his big break when former director of Tata Steel Zoological Park M.S. Jain assigned him the task of making topiaries at the green lung.“I had no idea how to make them. I researched with concept drawings. With the help of my friend R.S. Gabri, I started work on the project. Thanks to my homework, I was able to pull it off,” said Biswas, who also did landscaping at the Tata zoo’s mandrill enclosure.

Among Biswas’ recent creations are scrap iron structures near Beldih Triangle in Northern Town, the trinity sculpture at Shatabdi Udyan and work in cement at Ghorabandha Theme Park.

The city-based craftsman has also completed a project at Binakantai, Madhya Pradesh.

Asked what he considered his greatest achievement, Biswas recalled a memory he shared with former Tata Steel chairman Russi Modi.

“Once, I presented him with a wood sculpture. Back then, I was finding my foothold in art. But the way he appreciated my work and looked for a a suitable place to keep it in his office enthralled me. I still remember that moment. It’s a memory very close to my heart,” said Biswas.

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