When I started building this sculpture, it was intended to be max 30 to 40 cms high. The model I created looked way different than the final creation. But this Ganesha had a mind of it’s own. To be honest, all sculptures have a mind and life of their own.
Firstly, it destroyed all beliefs that I had about sculpture being easy to do for a painter / artist. Sculpture is a different beast. You have to respect the laws and process of construction, including the forces of gravity. Most importantly, you have to respect the clay itself. Each type of clay breathes and lives differently. You need to work with it, allowing it to form and dry at its own pace. The biggest mistake is when you think you can ‘force’ the clay to do your bidding. You can create what you want, but if you don’t respect the clay’s flexibilities and limitations, your piece can have loads of cracks, and can explode in the kiln.
Secondly, no matter how hard I wanted it to turn out and look the image I had in mind, if the sculpture didn’t want it, it didn’t happen. I used a lot of references to build certain parts of the sculpture. If my Ganesha didn’t want it or didn’t like the energy of those references, those pieces would simply break off!! Hours of hard work would fall off with no visible cracks or explanation. It took me a Iittle time to understand that He didn’t want it hehe. I would then find a brand new reference and start that part again from scratch. And it would stay! Respect the energy of the artwork itself. I learnt to listen to what my artworks wanted, rather than what I wanted. I learnt to completely surrender to the process of allowing the creation to happen. It put me on a path of letting go and allowing the flow to come through, dropping all images of ‘what it should be’, to being open to receiving all possibilities of ‘what it can be.’
I started by working on the sculpture by placing it horizontally, getting the tummy structure right, and from there I installed the basis of the legs and head. I modelled the feet by referring to my feet, only to realise he would have very feminine feet! Haha so had to redo it, using drawings of the feet of Jesus done by Michelangelo.
For the placement of the forearms, I used a Buddha statue as a reference, since Buddha too places his forearms in a similar manner as I had in mind for this Ganesha. For the upper torso, collarbones, shoulders and muscle definition in the biceps and arms, I spoke to a few guys at the gym and they happily posed for me. They became my weekly monitoring group, checking my progress and comparing pics to what was being created. For the hands I used a friend’s hand as a reference since his bone and muscle structure was well defined for it to show.
The head and trunk were installed, and I created it using Indian elephants as a reference and tapping into what I know of Ganesha. But when we actually placed him vertically, we realized that his head drooped down and his neck disappeared!! We had to make a call, behead him, and reinstall the neck and shoulders and refit the head.
At that moment, my Romanian teacher, who had been reading up about the folklore and stories of Ganesha from the time I started to create this, stated and pointed out that now we actually have a true Ganesha in our hands because Ganesha too was beheaded by his father Shiva and given the head of an elephant and a new life. The symbolism was so apt. It finally stood at 63 cms high, weighing 12 to 14 kgs.
Since I am a person who meditates everyday, I gave him closed eyes so that it looks as though he is meditating. It took me hours to finalize and polish him with a small tool, removing all rough edges, smoothing each part of the structure, and sealing in the clay. I took the option of painting him before firing him in the kiln so that we can create more of an antique finish rather than a glossy finish. At the last minute, I painted a small trishul / trident on his forehead to symbolize the link between Ganesha & his father Shiva. Ganesha always meditated using the powerful mantra of his father ‘Om Namah Shivaya’, and as soon as I painted the trishul on, I knew he was ready.It took 4 weeks for him to dry before he was placed into the kiln at over 1100 degrees Celcius, baking for over 36 hours. I then chose the option of using beeswax to polish and varnish him, adding to the antique look. That process of waxing and polishing him took hours too!
Finally, after 70 hours of working on him, from start to finish, we brought him home! My mom wanted to add the Rudraksh bracelets on his wrist since he is a meditating Ganesha, and also because Rudraksh beads are worn by Shiva himself as his ornaments.
I have to say, personally, this sculpture has been an incredible journey for me. It taught me so much about the power of art, the power of sculptures. They choose us. They know what they want and how they want it. Believe in the life of the art itself, and magical things will happen! And yes, before anyone asks, I do ask them what they want now! 🙂