When one thinks of art, a picture of a sophisticated art gallery with a few elite people who can afford to buy artwork comes to our mind. Breaking this stereotype, a fine arts professor from Vijaywada, Andhra Pradesh, has been turning automobile metal scrap into sculptures and installing them at public parks so than even the general public can watch his artwork.
Through his art, professor Srinivas Padakandla wants to encourage the recycling of electronic and automobile waste by transforming the recycled metal scrap into sculptures.
"A common man cannot visit the sophisticated art galleries in big hotels or exhibition centres, where different kinds of art forms, including metal arts, are showcased. That privilege is mostly available to elite or rich people. The metal sculptures that we make are installed in public parks with the help of respective municipal corporations, for every person right from a kid to the elderly to savour it," he told The Logical Indian.
He said the metal scrap, instead of ending up in landfills, is being used to create beautiful sculptures. "Every engineering student can relate to this kind of art. It is liked by people from all walks of life. The very idea that we can create something good out of scrap that people generally throw away fascinates many," he added.
"Men, especially mechanics who give away their automobile scrap to us, come with their jaws, dropped to see our art forms. They can't believe that something useful is created from the stuff they throw away," said Srinivas.
Padakandla leads a team of 15 to 20 members, which includes his juniors, sub-juniors and students from his college who help him make the sculptures. It doesn't take much time for his team to turn automobile scrap into a piece of art. A 15-feet model takes only a week's time. "All my team members are experts in making metal sculptures. They are really passionate about metal art," he said.
He and his team get the automobile metal scrap from various Autonagars (Industrial areas) and local mechanic shops in various districts in Andhra Pradesh at ₹35 per kilogram. "The prices differ in different Autonagars. Some charge us ₹55 per kg while some charge ₹85 per kg. We obviously go where we can procure it at cheaper rates," he added.
Srinivas also said that making sculptures is not as difficult as it seems. "We prepare a bone structure for every sculpture using pipe material. Then sticking the metal takes very less time. We also ensure the quality outcome," he added.
The professor's team enters into an agreement with the local authorities for making beautiful artworks out of scrap. They provide five-year maintenance for their models. He takes contracts from the local municipal corporations for beautification works. "Every municipal corporation allots a certain amount for beautification works. Our team bid the lowest cost, say, ₹30,000 per model. Other private metal art makers charge lakhs of rupees. As we charge less, there is a better tendency that the corporation picks us up for the contract," said Srinivas.
Srinivas, who has trained many students at various colleges to make metal art forms, said metal art triggers innovation among students, that too with a low budget and zero investment, we can create miniatures and aesthetic art forms. One of the reasons he specialised in metal art is that it is long-lasting, unlike wooden art forms. "We do it with passion, and our main intention is not to make money but to make the art reachable to everyone. We have been getting great response and appreciation from the authorities and public for turning scrap metal into sculptures."
"As climate change is a threatening issue presently and waste management is being taken seriously by both government and individuals these days, what we are doing serves a little bit to the environment," he said, adding that the scrap instead of reaching the landfill ends up taking a beautiful shape.
He further added, "The scrap metal that ends up in landfill poisons up the soil – leading to other issues and types of pollution. This may contaminate the food chain, in turn, affecting our health. Hence, recycling scrap metal and utilising it after recycling lessens the demand for virgin ore mining operations."
Srinivas's models were appreciated and installed in many cities across Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Odisha. Hailing from Maruthi Nagar in Vijaywada, he graduated from Andhra University, Vishakapatnam, in 1995. He got his post-graduation in Fine Arts in Sculpture from Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi in 1998.
He has displayed his models at the All India Stone Carving Camp jointly organised by Lalit Kala Akademi and Regional Centre, Chennai and also at South Zone Cultural Centre, Thanjavur, in 2007 and 2018. He has also participated in an automobile sculpture workshop at Shilparamam in Kadapa organised by AP Shilparamam Arts and Cultural Society in 2016.
He also encourages people to design low-cost sculptures from the metal scrap available in their respective areas.
In 2016 and 2018, Vijayawada Municipal Corporation sought Srinivas's help to beautify the city with his models. Apart from this, the Guntur Municipal Corporation in 2017, Madurai, Thoothukudi, Anantapur, and Hindupur local bodies in 2018, and Greater Chennai Municipal Corporation in 2019, installed Srinivas's models in their respective cities.