A contemporary artist and sculptor, Jagannath Panda is known for his site-specific art installations and urban landscape paintings, which frequently depict animals and plants alongside human figures and incorporate motifs from traditional Indian art. Over the course of his career, he has worked with a wide range of materials including terracotta, bronze, stone, paper and papier-mache. His works embody ecological and environmental concerns, exploring themes of urbanisation and migration by juxtaposing the natural and the artificial.
Panda was born in the city of Bhubaneswar, Orissa (now Odisha). As a child, he developed his inclination towards the arts by copying illustrations from the Ramayana and making clay figures at school. He later served as an apprentice to a local craftsman, in whose workshop he made murtis, which he painted using enamel paints. He went on to obtain a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree from the BK College of Arts and Crafts, Bhubaneswar, in 1991, where he received the support of painter and art historian Dinanath Pathy. While there, he learned new techniques such as traditional dhokra bronze casting and built on his knowledge of terracotta sculpture. Later, he joined the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programme at the Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda (now Vadodara), where he was taught by artists such as Gulammohammed Sheikh and Raghav Kaneria. During this period, he experimented with a variety of media in his works, such as totemic wood and hollowed-out terracotta sculptures of life-size figures. After completing his MFA in 1994, he returned to Bhubaneswar and continued experimenting with dhokra-style metal casting and locally sourced black basalt.
In 1995, Panda received a research grant from the Lalit Kala Akademi and moved to Delhi. Two years later, the Japan Foundation awarded him a six-month fellowship to continue his research at the University of Education, Fukuoka. The move to Japan brought him in direct contact with international artists such as Fukuoka-based Abe Mamoru, with whom he collaborated on his first site-specific work, Spirit of the Ground (1998). The work consisted of a circular space with a small mound of earth topped with burnt ashes at the centre to represent a nearby volcano. Shortly after, he held a solo show at the Za Moca Foundation’s gallery in Tokyo, where he displayed his work Expression of Personal Objects (1998) – a series of papier-mâché boxes meant to be mementos of his stay in Japan.
Upon his return to Delhi, Panda struggled to find work as a painter and a sculptor until Peter Nagy organised an exhibition of his works at the Hungarian Culture Centre, Delhi, and the Chemould Prescott Road (formerly Chemould Gallery), Mumbai in 2000. Later that same year, he received a scholarship from the Inlaks Shivadasani Foundation to obtain a master’s degree in sculpture from the Royal College of Art, London. While there, he studied with contemporary artists Darren O’Connor, Noah Sherwood and Sean Michael, collaborating with them on a site-specific work titled Lime Tree Grove Project (2001). He moved back to Delhi in 2002 and, the following year, participated in the Great Arc Project organised by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India to commemorate the bicentennial of the Great Trigonometric Survey of India. He also participated in an artists’ residency at the KHOJ International Artists’ Association.
In 2011, Panda founded the Utsha Foundation for Contemporary Art in Bhubaneswar with the aim of bringing contemporary art to spaces outside the studio and providing a platform for emerging artists from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. More recently, he participated in a solo show titled Crystal Cities (2017) at the Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, and a group show, Visions from India (2020–21), organised by the Pizzuti Collection at the Columbia Museum of Art, USA.
Panda has received a number of accolades, including the Centre Prize, C.I.I.C London (2002); the All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society Award, New Delhi (1996); the Alice Boner Memorial Award (1991); and the Orissa State Lalit Kala Akademi Award (1990). His work is also part of the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi; the Mori Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan; and the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi.
At the time of writing, he lives in Gurgaon, where he continues to work from his studio.
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