Mixed media artist Simran Lamba gives life to coal tar and metal in his art

Mixed media artist Simran Lamba is planning an exhibition of his third project, Chainsaw Bread, in Kolkata

Sharmistha Ghosal Published :  01st June 2018 12:00 AM   |   Published :   |  01st June 2018 12:00 AM

By any yardstick boiling coal tar is obnoxious. It emits fumes of the most foul kind that can choke you. In rare instances, however, it can even inspire an artist in you. In fact, it changed the perspective, and life, of 35-year old artist Simran Lamba. An alumnus of the Sherwood School and Bishop Cotton College, Lamba, who aspired to become a filmmaker, ended up being a mixed media installation artist, courtesy a chance encounter with molten tar. “About 15 years ago, while renovating my house in Delhi, I observed how the molten coal tar bubbled and changed into something very different. I realised the potential of coal tar as a medium and started experimenting with it,” recalls Lamba, who took three to four years to finish his experiment and come up with enchanting works on canvas and other bases, where he juxtaposed molten coal tar, with liquid metals such as zinc.

Lamba's latest exhibition, the Chainsaw Bread series

Lamba’s first solo exhibition, Genesis, held in 2010 at Visual Arts Gallery in India Habitat Centre, Delhi, dealt with a plethora of subject from figurative to abstract pieces in tarmac and was homage to the roads. The visitors were appreciative and Lamba held subsequent exhibitions at Mumbai’s Jehangir Art Gallery and Goa Kala Academy.

After two exhibitions and several installation projects, Lamba is crisscrossing the country exhibiting his third baby, the Chainsaw Bread, which has been exhibited at Lalit Kala Academy, in February this year. And  now, Lamba is planning an exhibition for the same in Kolkata, too. “My third work is all about deforestation depicted through life-size copper and wooden sculptures of the abject victims of nature’s death,” he elucidates.

The Unison at Taj Vivanta, Gurgaon

Was it difficult to establish oneself as an artist without any formal training? “The advantage of professional training is that you will make fewer mistakes. But being self taught allows you a fresh perspective. I learnt to question the process, reinvent and challenge the conventional principles and the market, too, is opening up to new media and artists. One needn’t necessarily stick to older and traditional ways of expression,” observes Lamba.

Tree of Responsibility project commissioned by Crafts Council of Bengal and the ITC group

But though there are risks of being an outsider in the world of arts, Lamba has carved a niche for himself and art collectors patiently wait for his latest works.

One of the works from Lamba's first series of art work, Genesis

His second exhibition, Nouveau, which came up in 2015, was an experiment in deconstructed tar and wires and crayons.”I experimented with several scrap materials and waste products including battery parts, discarded radiator, and residues of tar, resin and liquefied polishing agents. Nouveau was a lot about abstract landscapes, such as the window series, where I used metal sheets and molten wires besides other media to depict,” Lamba explains.

Another one from Lamba's Genesis series 

Lamba’s work in the commissioned projects and installation space includes Tree of Responsibility project commissioned by Crafts Council of Bengal and the ITC group. It was a project he loved experimenting with.  “It was all about celebrating the spirit of Christmas through use of indigenously made handicrafts and products. The tree was made out of wire mesh, terracotta, kantha fabric and LED lights,” remembers Lamba.

One of Lamba's works from his latest Chainsaw Bread series

The Unison, commissioned by Taj Group of Hotels, to commemorate their hundredth property has been installed at Taj Vivanta, Gurgaon. “It’s a 14 feet huge metal structure, which depicts integration of nature and modern architecture. I have shown a tree metamorphosing into a copper laden abstract building structure at the base, telling the tale of nature’s slow death,” and

Devi was another commissioned installation that he did for Taj Gateway Hotel in 2013, where again coal tar and mixed media were used. “It is an ode to Bengal, which has historically celebrated the power and invincibility of Goddess Durga.

Lamba’s themes are all inspired by nature and he says it’s about being conscious of one’s surroundings and paying attention to the smaller details of life mutating from one form to the other. And to depict nature he has chosen the most unlikely medium, coal tar. “By using coal tar and wire I am trying to show that painting absorbs everything around itself. The canvas can absorb other media and tar becomes a vital material because it’s more than just a fusion agent,” avers Lamba.

Mixed media artist Simran Lamba

But then art is running in Lamba’s veins, with mother, Mona Lamba, being a one of the forerunners of designer clothes labels revolution in Kolkata. The name MonaPali invariably strikes a chord with all the fashion conscious crowd of the nineties, when city hardly had any boutique retailing designer ready-to-wear clothes.

But Lamba chose not to follow the beaten track and follow his own calling. “I always had an artistic bent of mind but never thought of designing clothes. But some day I am definitely going to make a video art film on 80 years of freedom struggle juxtaposed with live paintings,” tells Lamba.