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A fecund vision of seed-time and harvest

by
02 October 2008

Jonathan Evens on sculptures with aneclectic spirituality

Rich amalgam: from top: Lamba’s The Cry

Rich amalgam: from top: Lamba’s The Cry

JUGINDER LAMBA is a sculptor with multifaith inspirations whose “Body and Soul” exhibition at the Waterhall Gallery in Birmingham forms a profound reflection on the creative spirit as experienced in birth and life.

Lamba is Kenyan-born, but also lived in India as a child before his family emigrated to the UK. Brendan Flynn, Curator of Fine Art at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, writing on Lamba’s influ­ences, suggests that in the “early years of his childhood . . . he acquired the African tradition of the materiality and the solidity of the earth” and amalgamated this with “the art, culture and ritual of the Hindu tradition”.

Flynn then indicates that Western cultural influences on Lamba and his work have primarily been artistic and philosophical. This, however, is to ignore Lamba’s engagement with both Greek myth and the Judaeo-Christian scriptures, as seen in works such as his Icarus series, Adam and Eve, Jacob’s Dream, and Resurrection.

Flynn then indicates that Western cultural influences on Lamba and his work have primarily been artistic and philosophical. This, however, is to ignore Lamba’s engagement with both Greek myth and the Judaeo-Christian scriptures, as seen in works such as his Icarus series, Adam and Eve, Jacob’s Dream, and Resurrection.

The most pervasive of these influences is that of his attachment to the earth and soil, as it is this that provides Lamba with his working methodology. Many of his works began with the artist’s searching through piles of joists and rafters looking for salvaged timber that would speak to him of its creative potentialities. His sculptures retain the personality and characteristics of the salvaged wood even at the same time as they are transformed into characters and forms of myth and metaphor.

This sense of creative potential and possibility coming to birth is also expressed in the imagery of Lamba’s works. The seed pod is a recurring symbol in Lamba’s salvaged-work sculptures, seen as an image of creative power held in potential, and drawing on Tantric ideas of the union of male and female principles. Similarly, Lamba’s sculptures Concep­tion and Birth depict the womb as a wondrous container for the potential of a new life.

There is a sense of a playful and creative spirit present in Lamba’s works, expressed in and through the ideas and stories of different reli­gious traditions, but contained by none.

Two works that are key in this respect are The Word Killeth and The Spirit Lifteth. The former is a bronze depicting a cowed figure pinned under the pages of an enormous book, while the latter, an oak carving, is of a celebratory figure rising up from the pages of a book. Lamba here seems to be contrasting a legalistic preoccupation with the letter of the laws contained in the scriptures of the great world reli­gions with the liberating and creative birth that response to the spirit of those same scriptures can provide.

Two works that are key in this respect are The Word Killeth and The Spirit Lifteth. The former is a bronze depicting a cowed figure pinned under the pages of an enormous book, while the latter, an oak carving, is of a celebratory figure rising up from the pages of a book. Lamba here seems to be contrasting a legalistic preoccupation with the letter of the laws contained in the scriptures of the great world reli­gions with the liberating and creative birth that response to the spirit of those same scriptures can provide.

Lamba’s sculptures are concerned with seeking and releasing the creative spirit that we experience in conception, birth, and life, and celebrate in the spirit and stories of the great world religions and myths. His practice of finding inspiration in the form of found objects is itself a holistic demonstration of that creative spirit at work. “The rich amalgam of cultural influences” in Lamba’s works, of which Flynn writes in the exhibition’s catalogue, provides paths to understandings of the human condition open to people of all religious traditions and none.

“Body and Soul: Sculptures by Juginder Lamba” is at the Waterhall Gallery of Modern Art, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Cham­ber­lain Square, Birmingham, until 26 October. Phone 0121 303 2834. www.bmag.org.uk

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