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Profile: Jagannath Panda
Through his exquisite and enigmatic creations, Jagannath Panda tries to reconcile many of our contradictions that are rather most fundamental in nature and largely to do with our existence, thoughts and beliefs. He tries to unravel the dichotomies that are hidden in Urban/Rural, Traditional/Contemporary, Nature/Culture and Figuration/Abstraction. As his creative tendencies swivel between the two extremes, his creations - paintings and sculptures - take a shape.

Curiously though, this restless and thinking artist looks to incorporate these diametrically oppositional scenarios into one unified whole. This he attains via the deft handling of compositions and colors. The subtle fusion of these contrasting elements adds a new dimension to his work.

What stands Jagannath Panda in good stead during this unusual artistic exploration is his intensely personal aesthetic sensibilities that serve as both interrogating agent and balancing device. Elaborating on his art practice, noted critic Peter Nagy has mentioned in an essay: “In a single work, Panda posits the existence of stylized gods, culled from the palm leaf manuscripts of his ancestral Orissa, within the skyscraper apartment blocks of the burgeoning, newest India. His Realism believes in the existence of Fantasy.

“The juxtaposition of diverse materials in a single work enables the artist to speak with multiple voices. Collage and assemblage are divorced from their Surrealist patrimony and function as both memory and mirror, storing preconceived meanings and reflecting a contradictory reality.”

Originally from the state of Orissa, upcoming and talented artist Jagannath Panda has been on the move – first studying at Baroda and then making his base in New Delhi, the capital state of India. Born in 1970, the artist did his BFA in Sculpture at B.K College of Arts and crafts, Bhubaneshwar in 1986-91. He completed his MFA (Sculpture) at the Faculty of Fine arts M.S University Baroda in 1994. He served as a visiting researcher at Fukuoka University of Education, Japan and also finished an MFA course in Sculpture from London’s Royal College of arts in 2002.

Among his prominent solo exhibitions are the ones at Berkeley Square Gallery, London (2006); Gallery Nature Morte, New Delhi (2005); Gallery Chemould, Mumbai (2000); Za moca Foundation Gallery, Tokyo (1998). He has exhibited his work at many international venues, including Hockney Gallery, RCA London. Among his selected group shows are ‘Private/Corporate IV’, Daimler Chrysler Contemporary, Berlin (2007); Galleri27, Oslo, Norway (2004); Royal College of Art, London (2001); ‘The Sight of Asia’, Fukuoka, Japan (1997), and ‘Beyond the Shores’, Rabindra Bhawan, New Delhi ((1995).

Among the awards won by him are Centre Prize, C.I.I.C London (2002); Inlaks Foundation Fellowship For study in the U.K (2000-02); All India Fine Art and Crafts Society Award, New Delhi (1996); Junior Research Fellowship, Dept of Culture Govt. of India (1998-99) and Japan Foundation Fellowship in 1997-98 apart from Research Fellowship, Lalit Kala, Akademi, New Delhi in 1995-96.

Jagannath Panda’s motifs quite often allude to the underlying forces that drive the social mechanism. Art critic Gayatri Sinha notes: “His personal journal mimics the pattern of India’s new and visible aspiration in which the modern has come to be equated with the urban. He has steadily constructed a language of alienation that is contained paradoxically within images of settlement. He also made the transition from sculpture and installations to painting, exploiting the possibility of narrative unfoldment that the medium affords.

“In small or large format, he works through the positioning of opposites, of the enforcing of structures and the evacuation of life forms, of mythic cycles and contemporary time, of value and its imminent loss. Panda’s inherent propensity is also to understand the climactic moments in the shifts of power. References to mythic narrative in his painting become emblematic of contemporary economic and political tension.”

It is worth noting that environmental and social issues greatly concern this sensitive artist. His subject matter is often sourced from the events around – either distantly located or those in his own backyard. As part of his creative churning, the commonplace object dawns symbolic stature, representing aspirations or even rigid dogmas.

Animals happen to play a key role in Jagannath Panda's vocabulary. Never anthropomorphic, beasts and birds stand for not only the human condition but also a continuum of life. They are the performers in the artist's ‘morality play’, akin to a dramatic staging of an enchanted universe; modern rationality has only the most tenuous hold on to it.