One man’s trash is another man’s art

US-based Harminder Singh Boparai's sculptures are infused with a soul & conscience

Sculptor Harminder Singh Boparai

A son of the soil who has forayed into global frontiers, he is an artist whose works are a confluence of his roots and wings. His is an artistic narrative extraordinaire that is scripted from sculpting art from scrap and sundry junk.

Harminder Singh Boparai is a US-based sculptor whose journey as an artist has its roots in small-town Punjab, but whose creativity has now taken wings as he finds new avenues of artistic expression and appreciation on American soil.

Harminder recently made waves and won accolades for his solo art exhibition Zero to Infinity, sponsored by the Holland Area Arts Council, MI (USA). He was also felicitated on baisakhi this year at an event for enriching the artscape of the Michigan area.

The leitmotif of his creative narrative lies in converting discarded waste or recycling junk into breathtaking objets d’art. Talking about some of his latest collections, Harminder says, “I just picked up some discarded wooden golf clubs —belonging to the 1970s-80s — from a scrap dealer, and was wondering how to turn them into art. It struck me that I could sculpt birds out of the golf clubs, and that was it. Objects which for the dealer were sheer scrap were for me precious as potential sculptures.”

What for Americans is garage junk is for Harminder artistic gold. “I regularly visit garage sales here in the US to scout for scrap that can be recycled into sculptures,” says Harminder. To him, these garage sales are nothing less than goldmines from where he gathers discarded vehicle wheels, bottles and such knick-knacks.

Though he works with myriad mediums, metal to wood, these reclaimed and recycled waste materials make up the major body of his works.

A sculpture made from scrap metal
A sculpture made from scrap metal

Among other creative works that resonate with this same craftsmanship of recycling junk into gems of sculpting is a recent work in which discarded bottle caps have been shaped into three fish in a collection titled Life. The global platforms at which Harminder’s art is being showcased in the US, be it at the Holland arts show, being featured in the Top100 Dynamic List of Artists at the Art Prize 2016 in Grand Rapids, have come as a shot in the arm in his evolution into an artist extraordinaire. The global exposure comes as a validation and value addition for his craftsmanship, as the Holland arts council hails his works as “playful and a bit profound reclaimed sculpture.”

In December 2016, the Van Singel Fine Arts Center presented his solo show of sculptures, while in September 2017, he participated in Art Prize 2017, one of the world’s largest competitive platforms, which attracted about 1,500 artists from about 45 countries.

Harminder showcased a sculpture on the theme Blessings at this art event.

Describing his creative works as a convergence of “the conventional and the contemporary,” Harminder talks of his early journey and influences that shaped him as an artist.

Born in Ghudani Kalan village in Ludhiana of Punjab, he grew up in the lap of Mother Nature, and it is this rustic upbringing that gives rootedness to his artistic expression.

Gratitude and grit resonate in the narrative of Harminder’s artistic journey. He credits its initial bit to his teachers and mentors, for sowing the seeds and honing his passion, whether it’s Manoneet Kalsi of Gobindgarh Public College or the renowned painter and sculptor Karuna Mohindra, and Jaswinder Singh Mehndi Pur. All this polishing of his craftsmanship over the years has translated into many feathers in his cap, like bagging the Lalit Kala Punjab award and the Best Art Work Award at the Delhi International Film Festival in 2012, National Art Ikon Award from HammerArt 2014, and many more.

His journey becomes remarkable for the never-say-die spirit with which he overcame odds like the paralytic attack that affected the right side of his body years ago. Not allowing his spirit to be crushed by the setback that has rendered his speech fuzzy for the rest of his life, he, with grit and gusto, suffuses his artworks with a soul and conscience.

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