A phrase like ‘listening to the voice of silence’ maybe a perfect oxymoron as per English grammar, but one look at Vivek Kumar’s art, and the concept strikes the observer with an illuminating impetus. His sculptures leave an indelible impression on the mind of the audience, sowing seeds of profound contemplation on the role of sound in our lives, seeds that germinate and continue to grow for a long time, affecting the way we perceive sound, its distinction from noise, its inextricable relationship with silence and the infinite power of listening.
A Struggle Against All Odds
Born on 11 August 1985 in Gaya district of Bihar, Vivek was attracted to art since childhood. As a small boy, he used to copy popular works of art to practice and hone his artistic skills. However, an aural and verbal inflection at the early age of three changed the course of his life forever. Not only did it become a perennial source of inspiration for the manifestation of his artwork, but also exhorted him to move forward in life with the greatest perseverance despite all odds.
Hence, hailing from a modest family background and residing in a place where there was a complete dearth of proper educational institutes for art, education didn’t deter him from gaining complete mastery in painting and sketching to secure his admission in the BFA Degree course at the renowned Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, in 2009, that too without availing the privileges available to him as a differently abled student. His decision to compete on pure merit in the general category, although laudable, cost him a seat in the painting course due to a minor lack of the marks, as a result of which he had to take up sculpting as a major. However, the event turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Vivek as nobody had fathomed the heights of success he would scale in the world of sculptures with his unique creations. After completing this course, he went on to pursue the MFA degree in Sculpting from the same University in 2011. His hard work and innate proficiencies as an artist won him the prestigious National Scholarship from the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, from 2010 – 2012.
The Three-Dimensional Messages In Melodious Silence
After completing his education, Vivek channeled the various facets of his daily struggle with life into creating exquisite sculptures founded on a profound message and draped in splendid visual appeal. Through one of his pieces, he elucidates the voice of silence: My loneliness is perpetual, for sound will never grace me with its company again. The absence, though felt in my life continuously through my unfulfilled cravings to talk, emit words from my tongue into the world and feel their vibrations falling on my ears, to share my ideas with everyone, to hear what people have to say. This has enabled me to build a transcendent language of my own through art.
Listening to the voice of silence, Vivek has garnered priceless wisdom and developed a deep understanding of life, which flows through his hands to transform the mundane existence of fiberglass and bronze into aesthetically adorned embodiments of knowledge. Dramatic renderings of the shapes and sizes of human ears on magnificent figureheads resplendent with a kaleidoscopic variety of subtle and tumultuous facial expressions permeate almost all of Vivek’s work. One of his striking sculptures titled ‘My Voice II’ enlightens the onlooker about the true experience of deafness and the abuse of the precious gift of hearing. It also points out the irony that most people around him are more bothered by his disability than he is.
While deafness, on its surface is mostly interpreted as living in a world of silence, excluded from experiencing sound and voice as sensations, the heightening of other senses, be it touch or vision, reveals a completely new face of the world to an aurally challenged person. This view of the world is unknown to a ‘normal’ human whose sense of hearing is strained to such an extent that either he is craving for silence in excessive noise, or is struggling to pick up traces of wisdom to quench his inner thirst in an obscured concoction of sounds surrounding him. When one exerts to pick up what one needs to hear the noise, keeping a hand on the ear to filter messages, it is like wishing for a bigger set of ears.
Recurrent Visual Wisdom of Silence
Another piece of art titled listening power points out the excessive emphasis on speaking, which further adds to the cacophony in the world, as compared to listening. It is imperative to balance both abilities in a harmonious equilibrium and to understand the colossal difference between hearing and listening.
Color plays an important role in Vivek’s art as it lends authenticity to the expression of different moods. In the piece titled ‘Shades of Life II’, he amalgamates two human bodies, one, when the ear is covered, illustrating peace and tranquility through a calming facial expression and the use of color white while the other, when the ear is open to the world, demonstrating frustration and discontentment through a wrinkled face and the color red.
Sculptures are the shadows of Vivek’s life – miniatures of a world navigated and understood through the medium of sight. At a young age, having participated in over 15 solo and over 20 group shows and having received numerous awards from various institutes and organizations, Vivek has successfully developed a unique style of his own in the world of sculpting. He has proved that limitations and struggles do not necessarily serve as obstacles to victory but can effectively exhort a person into positive action.