SOLLAGE: GREEN AT HE‘ ART’
Jayant Shidhaye. The name might not ring a bell. But his artistically curated ‘Sollage’ is creating quite a buzz. He is probably the only artist in the world who has used silicon chips to create intricate works of art. In a tête-à-tête with Society, Jayan
It was not easy catching up with Jayant Shidhaye. Despite being happily retired from his work life, this man has too many passions to pursue to be found so easily. After his long vacay in the US, the date was finalised. And we met. His modest house in Hyderabad was brimming with art and creativity. Clearly, this man saw beauty in everything. The artifacts in his tastefully decorated home told me he was an avid traveller. The wall art was spectacular. However, it was the rustic bow and arrow that caught my fancy. “Oh, those I picked up in Bastar, Orissa when I had gone there to install solar-powered lights. The tribal people had them and I thought they would be great pieces to own,” says Jayant as he steps forward to greet me. A cheerful man dressed in smart casuals, he looks super fit for his age. I am told he is in his early seventies but his face refuses to show signs of ageing. Perhaps that’s what happens to people who have a passion to reinvent themselves. What follows next is a wonderful revelation of what a person can achieve if he poured his heart and soul into something. Why the name ‘Sollage’? I ask. As if he was expecting just that, he’s quick to reply. “Sollage is extremely close to my heart. It’s not easy to create artworks from these asymmetrical silicon chips you know. Despite the limited colour palette, the hues fascinated me. I did a lot of experimentation before I knew exactly what to do with them. I had practically poured my heart and soul into it. Besides, it was a collage of all the wonderful sightings I have had during my travel. Sollage therefore seemed most appropriate.” I cannot help but notice the unmistakable glint in his eyes as he speaks about his baby. The man who spent most of his time in the complex world of solar electricity and renewable energy, saw creativity in everything around him. The silicon chips obviously were adding to the already increasing toxic waste that called for stringent disposal methods. Instead of ending up in waste disposal plants, they had secured coveted spaces in the living rooms of the rich and the famous. Jayant decided to use these wafer-thin slivers of silicon to transform them into sheer works of art. As we speak, he takes me to an adjacent room that is now his studio. The room is brimming with large and small frames, and yet another one ready to take form—a work-in-progress that is clearly set to outdo its predecessors. “What’s interesting is that the silicon wafers that are usually blue tend to change colours when treated in the furnace. These changed colours create unique patterns. The solar cell industry uses round-shaped wafers. If you break them, you get absolutely random shapes
and sizes. I have discovered my art in their randomness and always tell people that it’s an accidental art,” Jayant says with a hearty laugh. His love for his art is evident, but where does the inspiration come from, I wonder. “My art is often inspired by subjects that have touched me the most. Being an astute observer, expressions of joy, elements of nature and landscapes dominate my art and are a reflection of my own experiences during my travel,” he reveals. I look at him in awe because every time he speaks about his art, he goes into a trance almost as if a new detail just caught his eye. The nostalgia is strong. He continues, “Can you believe I have no formal training in painting, sculpting or for that matter any other form of art? I have never ever held a brush in my entire life. Yet I was invited by the B S Bandekar College of Fine Art, Sawantwadi which is affiliated to Sir J J School of Art, Mumbai to guide and train students during a week-long workshop. I grew up in Dombivli which was very different than what it is today. What made things worse was that my mother was a teacher, but I was never really interested in studies. Growing up, I never thought I would make my mother proud some day. After a series of jobs that allowed me to hone my engineering skills, I formed a company called Renewable Energy Systems Pvt Ltd with four other equally talented partners. This company went on to become a Limited Company in just a few years. My company had more than 300 female workers. In fact, I had urged everyone to think of putting this silicon waste to good use. Perhaps embed it into tapestry or something so that they could shine the way mirrors do. We keep talking about
going green you know, and this was my way of showing my love for the environment.” Sollage is unique and it’s impossible to reproduce or reprint the artwork since no two chips are alike and they can never be dyed or transformed. It takes labourious hours to perfect an artwork and endless patience to watch these pieces come together to form a meaningful piece of art. Given the irregular nature of silicon material, these chips are handpicked to complement the subject he chooses. He points to a wooden canvas and says, “I experiment a lot with frames and backgrounds too. They play an equally important role in enhancing the aesthetics. While making this one, I saw shapes of leaves in the silicon wafers and decided to create interesting foliage. However, I sometimes use them to create an intricate pattern that looks more like modern art, what with the demand for that kind of art increasing by the day.” Sollage has been showcased in Germany too as part of an event dedicated to renewable energy. But it’s not the commercial aspect Jayant is lured to. He has himself lived the high life in the chic and iconic Jubilee Hills locales. So, this artist is not hungry for praise or money. Despite a sizeable number of buyers from foreign countries seeking his art, money is not what drives him. What he needs is genuine interest and people who can understand the pain and labour that goes into the making of each frame. “While a small frame takes at least a week, the more elaborate ones can take a few months. It all depends on the theme and detailing. A huge credit goes to my wife too because every time a bizarre idea strikes me, she allows me to creep into my shell to nurse my idiosyncrasies,” says he as his wife walks in, just in time to hear those lovely words. “I like classy, flawless work. Mediocrity scares me. I try to infuse freshness into each one,” he adds. Sollage itself is innovative and has tremendous potential for artists. Being the torchbearer, Jayant is crusading to push Sollage into the forefront. “I don’t want it to die you know. Due to various events, exhibitions and the media coverage I get for my work, enthusiastic parents approach me from time to time to conduct workshops for their kids. I have trained all those who have shown interest but I am not looking for mere hobbyists. I am looking for people with genuine passion who can give Sollage the place it rightfully deserves. Come Diwali and Eid, people watch the same culinary shows again and again for the same recipes. But art like this does not get its due. I don’t want this art to die with me…” he clears his throat and I can feel the angst of this earnest artist. Jayant’s body of work is too large for his medium frame. But he continues attaining new creative highs frame after frame with élan. Sollage is intricate, but the finesse with which Jayant creates it makes it an absolute must-have for your living room. It takes a connoisseur to fathom the effort, excellence, and effect of his art. If you are one, don’t forget to visit his website. I wish him luck and leave with a Sollage miniature autographed by the man himself.