Outsider Artist - Nek Chand
Of all the visionary environments
in the world there is none as spectacular, as vast, as that created by Nek
Nek Chand believes that in Nature
everything is used, even fallen leaves go back to enrich the soil, similarly
the waste of a city should be recycled back into use once more. He had moved to
In 1958, Nek Chand, who was working as a Roads Inspector for the Chandigarh Public Works Department, made for himself a little clearing in the thick undergrowth outside the city and began to collect together the stones and the waste materials that he knew he would be using, storing them in a little hut he had built. He had already had a dream showing him that this location was once the site of a glorious kingdom and he was to create his own kingdom of kings and queens.
He had access to waste dumps in
his Department and after his working day he brought materials and stones back
to his clearing on the back of a bicycle. So began one of the most momentous
achievements of individual human creativity in modern times. By 1965, he was
ready to begin his kingdom. The land he was working on was not his own, but a
Government area where no development or building of any kind was permitted.
Unlike other Indian cities,
Nek Chand set his stones around the little clearing and before long had sculpted his first figures, made of cement with an outer skin of broken bangles. Gradually the creation developed and grew; before long the sculptures and stones covered several acres. After his working day as a roads inspector ended, he worked alone in the undergrowth. He cleared the land and built his environment. Day after day, and at night by the light of burning tyres, he worked in total secrecy for fear of being discovered by the authorities. Apart from his wife Kamla and a few trusted friends nobody was aware what Nek Chand was doing.
When in 1972, a Government working
party began clearing the jungle they came across acres of stones and statues.
Almost two thousand sculptures of various sizes inhabited the undergrowth.
Amazed by what they had discovered, local government officials were thrown into
turmoil. Nek Chand’s creation was completely illegal
— a development in a forbidden area which by rights should be demolished.
Within a few days of his discovery everyone in
Although many city officials were
outraged, local business men offered Chand free materials and transport and
with this extra assistance he was able to embark on the First Phase of the
environment proper. He formed a series of small courtyards to display his
natural rocks and sculptures. As his creation developed so did the support and
interest of the citizens of
He was now in a position to start work on the Second Phase, a series of large courtyards, many coated in a mosaic of natural stone or broken ceramic linked by winding paths and low archways. The armatures for much of his sculpture were made from old cycle parts; saddles became animal heads, forks became legs, frames became bodies. For his extensive areas of mosaic, he used not only broken crockery and tiles but whole bathrooms. He has built walls of oil drums, electric plug moulds and of old fluorescent tubes. His figures are clothed in thousands of broken glass bangles, in mosaic, or in foundry slag, even feathers.
In addition to the cement and concrete creations he also produces great quantities of animals and figures out of old rags and discarded clothing. These giant rag dolls are usually full size constructions with strong metal armatures. The interiors consist of hundreds of tightly bound rags, giving a rigidity and strength unusual in this medium. Nek Chand developed complex and extensive methods of waste collection with many different collection points to form one of the largest recycling programmes in Asia. And still he continues to work, now on the Third Phase of the Rock Garden...
Outisder Artists are unique creators in our times. Total outside of professional institutions of art, they have no formal training or degrees. Even more importantly, they choose to make and showcase their work in spaces other than art galleries and museums. Some of the most innovative and powerful creations today are by such ‘mad’ visionaries. Read more about Outsider Art and Artists at www.rawvision.com