By Saptakala

Using discarded e-waste to create enthralling ‘green art design works’, Haribaabu Naatesan promotes the ‘save the environment’ theme uniquely through his inimitable art at his solo exhibition ‘Irreversible 2.0 – Obsoleteness is Mukti’ at the Jehangir Art Gallery, Kala Ghoda, from 25-31 January, 2022.

If you ask a beholder to describe Haribaabu Naatesan’s art, “arresting” would be the word of choice. At times abstract, at other times lucid despite its enormity, his vision parallels Michelangelo’s in reverse. The High Renaissance artist envisioned the statue within every block of stone, while Haribaabu senses the soul in each piece of scrap he comes across and liberates it. Even as his current exhibits, being displayed at the Jehangir Art Gallery from 25-31 January, 2022, stand apart from his previous work with regard to treatment and the colouring process, the theme of leaving no ‘scrap’ behind continues to surface at the “Irreversible 2.0 – Obsoleteness is Mukti” show.

Explaining the exhibit’s theme, Haribaabu says, “My current works are interactive—when a viewer approaches any installation, one or the other static component comes alive and moves. Some have sensors that light up when viewers close in while certain others include abandoned CPU fans that begin to rotate. There’s even this huge tape-recorder cassette whose wheels start to churn when someone approaches the artwork.” The show includes around 12 such artworks created from all manners of e-scrap such as motherboards, CPU cooling fans, CDs, floppy discs, laptop keyboards, tape-recorder cassettes, speakers, among other odds and ends. All of them took up to six months to put together and are about 6 feet x 6 feet in measurement.

Talking about one of the artworks on display, Haribaabu Naatesan says there is a sense of the coming together of two distinct worlds, much like the Ardhanarishvara  —a combination of the male and female essence. “The union of Shiva and Parvathi, hence the black and white being used to illustrate the two opposite poles connected by Parvathi’s red bindi in the centre. Shiva’s forehead sports his tri-vibhuti depicted by e-automobile grills in this artwork. The LED lights represent life as the two have to unite to create it,” the artist rationalises.

The scrap in his artwork also evokes memories of years gone by, making one reflect on how the usefulness of things is tied to whether you store them or throw them. An exhibition such as Irreversible 2.0 makes for a philosophically and spiritually evocative journey.

On a more practical note, if you ask Haribaabu whether he goes about collecting scrap he protests and assures us that he doesn’t; it finds him. Probably seeking ‘mukti’ because that’s what he offers to the damaged and discarded objects via his luscious, lumbering pieces of green art design works, which are on an average 50-60 kg per installation for this show. He likes to pick up what’s dumped and put it together to create a form that will be loved. “I do not consciously spend a lot of time at scrap stations. For me, it just comes very naturally to me that whenever I see an item that is lying in a corner, unused, I feel that it could be used to create an interesting artwork. It could be anything from across the road or a park or for that matter, something lying on the floor of my own house! I see art in everything.” the artist expresses.

There’s another side to the situation too. “In my housing society, no one discards junk anymore, they just call me. And I stack it all in my studio. In fact, once the TV remote went missing and my wife demanded to know if I had ‘scrapped’ it. As it happens, I had…” he laughingly admits.

From being a teenager with a graduation degree from the Government College of Fine Arts, Chennai, Haribaabu discovered junk only while exploring and falling in love with product designing at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. There were heaps of it dumped on the premises and he just had to rescue its soul. And the love affair has endured. No wonder his feelings about waste generation, global warming and recycling are clearly evident in each piece. When he recycles unloved junk into art, he brings an end to the recycling and liberates them in the sense that those pieces now find an eternal place for themselves in his artworks.

He practices recycling to the extent that preaching becomes unnecessary; it transcends into awareness wordlessly. Be it his 800-kg Ganesh idol sculpted out of alum or the Volkswagen’s Think Blue campaign collab resulting in a Beetle car made completely of e-scrap; the Bombay Iron Merchant Association commissioned ‘Make in India’ lion that stands guard on the P.D’Mello Road in Mumbai, the 56-feet long whale fashioned out of auto parts composed of nearly 10 tonnes of automobile parts for the Gujarat Science City, Ahmedabad, or the beguiling Golden Spiral for the Raheja Group at the BKC, inspired from the Fibonacci numbers—Haribaabu Naatesan inspires one to give ‘waste’ a second glance. And beautifully so!

Yours Is to check out artist Haribaabu Naatesan’s show ‘Irreversible 2.0 – Obsoleteness is Mukti’, from 25-31 January, 2022, at Jehangir Art Gallery, Kala Ghoda.