This Artist Uses Ashes From Funeral Fires and Bone Particles in His Works
Sampurna Naskar mimics the burning of the funeral pyre to create his works which incorporate human remains

This Artist Uses Ashes From Funeral Fires and Bone Particles in His Works

Check out his collaboration with crematorium workers.
Dhvani Solani
Mumbai, IN
September 19, 2018, 5:50am

When Sampurna Naskar, 26, was growing up in a village near Kolkata, he used to live in a house that had a couple of crematoriums in its vicinity. Every time he sat down to study, he was conscious of his unique location, and the fact that there were human bodies being burnt not too far away—with intermittent smells and smoke adding to his discomfort and fear. “But when I grew up, the same memory made me question everything, from existence to mortality to my own irrational fear,” he tells us.


Sampurna Naskar in his studio, his happy place

In an exhibition that is currently on in Mumbai, Naskar has transformed his fear to art, with ashes from funeral fires and bone particles as also charcoal making it to his works. These pieces of art are part of a bigger show called ‘The Third Hand’, at Priyasri Art Gallery, which sees the participating artists collaborate with non-artists. “I chose to collaborate with workers of a crematorium in Baroda to understand the nature of their job. I realised that they just look at it as any other job. They might’ve been scared of it at one point but it’s a mechanical activity now,” says the recent Master of Fine Arts graduate from Visva Bharati University, Santiniketan.

His art, in a way, becomes part of the cyclical process of life and death too. By incorporating found objects from the crematorium as also from his surroundings (discarded official documents, posters, wood, etc), he lends them a new lease of life. “By taking human remains and memories, he takes the very essence of what a human goes through, and restarts a life cycle in his works,” says the curator of the show Bhasha Mewar.

But what we think of as two extreme ends of a spectrum—life and death—also involves violence and destruction. “There is violence at play when a baby is born, or when you cut your hair with a pair of scissors to give it form, or when you dig mud to build a building,” says Naskar. “You need deconstruction for construction.” These gestures of violence and destruction are interpreted as lines that cut or are slashed across the paper or his acts of burning newspapers in his studio, mirroring the rituals of cremation as observed across cultures.

"You need deconstruction for construction."

Are there issues of ethics and consent at play here, we ask Naskar. And are people freaked out with the idea of having human remains hang on their walls? “We source it all sensitively and with full knowledge of the workers and people involved,” he says. ”More than death, people understand that my work is about memories and how that’s the only thing that’s left behind.”

Sampurna Naskar’s works are on display till October 15 at Priyasri Art Gallery, 42 Madhuli, Shiv Sagar Estate, Dr Annie Besant Road, Worli.