Born in 1965, Gagji studied architecture at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda, and presently teaches Art & Craft at the Reliance School in Jamnagar. A fine carver of wood and stone, in recent years, Gagji has begun experimenting with glass, creating simple yet intriguing sculptures made with glass bottles, often paired with wood.
If there is one thing that Gagji Monpara is extremely confident about, it is the “frozen beauty, fragile strength” of glass. He has experienced it first hand, the joy preceded by exasperation, the excitement tempered with grief. How did Gagji get involved with glass, that too using already available glass bottles and then ‘re-forming’ them to blend into his sculptural ideas? For a number of years, Gagji has been the Art & Craft teacher at the Reliance school in Jamnagar where he specializes in clay-work. In an effort to make clay-work more interesting and to introduce innovation of some kind in the teaching process, he thought of combining clay with glass.
Objects captured in glass bottles are always a source of much curiosity to children and adults alike; Gagji would get his students to make interesting little objects from clay, fire them and then insert them in empty jam and pickle bottles that the students would get from their homes. He would then put the bottles in the kiln and adjust, with much experimentation, the temperatures to get the glass bottles to collapse and form interesting shapes. The results were often quixotic, sometimes laughable but usually very interesting. That’s when Gagji started to seriously think about glass bottles, often nothing more than disposable waste, as a possible sculptural medium.
As Gagji’s confidence to work with existing glass bottles began to grow, he started to source different kinds of glass bottles (often liquor bottles) with varied thicknesses and shapes, coloured, plain and patterned glass. With every success, it became clear to the artist that he had stumbled upon a material and medium through which his sculptural work could have a unique channel of expression. While in some works, the glass retains the identity of its original bottle form, in quite a few ones, the artist manages to skillfully disguise it; only the signature ‘neck’ of the bottle sometimes gives away the fact of its earlier avatar!
There has been a strong element of a rustic kind of vitality that was always present as a symbolic undertone in Gagji’s sculptures. It has expressed itself as fecund natural forms such as sprouting seeds/eggs, erotic-looking fruits and flowers. His bulbous glass forms find an easy identification with similar representation, especially the work in which a number of such forms with the bottle necks acting as ‘stems’ are anchored in wooden bases.
Gagji’s sculptures have been recognized for their rhythmic and lyrical quality that he achieves through the way he expertly balances the different elements of the sculpture, juxtaposing the ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ aspects in such clever alignment that the final presentation is visually delightful.
His exhibit with us is titled Frozen in time a glass and wood artwork made in 2021.