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Performance of the formless: An artist’s quest for originality

ArtPerformance of the formless: An artist’s quest for originality

Mumbai-based sculptor and artist Tyrell Valladares believes that art is about breaking new experimental ground. This is something he has done in his own creative practice, by making sculptures and installation pieces that are original and unique, writes Sneha Gohri.



Tyrell Valladares is a Mumbai-based sculptor and artist whose clients include Nike and Adidas. He is the founder of Metalhead Studio, which serves “as a platform where art in all its forms can be expressed, exploring infinite possibilities”. He has also made a number of public art installations in and around Mumbai.

A Van Gogh Mosaic painted on a Mumbai Staircase by Valladares in 2016.

Before he set out on his artistic career, he worked as a flight steward with an Indian airline. In 2012, a knee injury (which he suffered while playing football) confined him to long spell of bed rest. And it was at this point in his life that he decided to take up a hobby course on welding—which was something that led him onwards to the art of sculpting, and to his very unique aesthetic sense.

Valladares got his break in 2013, when Nike approached him to make a giant metal sculpture of the Indian cricket team’s jersey. He has not looked back since. He describes his aesthetic as “out of the box and different”. 

The choice of material is the first big decision a sculptor is faced with. As for Valladares, he prefers to sculpt in resin, metal and glass. His pieces can take weeks and sometimes even months to create. What attracts him to sculpting is the freedom it grants an artist to play with the form. In fact, his recent exhibition, on view till 19 July at Mumbai, is entitled Formless. It features a series of experimental artworks by Valladares, one of which—a molten metal sculpture framed on the wall—appears like a cross between a sculpture and painting. “Most people do an oil or watercolour painting on canvas but nobody thinks about putting metal inside the frame of a painting. Just melting molten metal down and just putting it in a frame,” he says.

A sculpture from the Metal Coral series and a metal painting (R) by Valladares.

There are many strains of inspiration to be drawn from art history. Valladares in particular is attracted to European modernism and American abstract expressionism.  “Vincent van Gogh, the surrealist artist Salvador Dali, and the abstract painter Jackson Pollock are those who inspire me,” he says.   

In 2016, the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) approach Valladares for a public art project—a mosaic to be painted on a staircase. He decided to use Van Gogh’s paintings as his theme for this.

Valladares has since made many more installations for the BMC. These include the installation works I Am Bandra, made in 2016, and Pegasus, in 2017. He believes art should serve a personal as well as public purpose. It should engage the viewer in a kind of conversation, and it should also make a social contribution.

“Art for me is about community feeling, and I learnt that from the streets and the area in Bombay that I grew up in,” he says. His advice for emerging artists is that they should “strive to do something unique and personal”. Indian sculptors, Valladares believes, have shown great potential in the past; and there’s no reason why the sculptors of the future can’t replicate the achievements of their forebears.

The Mumbai show, Formless, features other artists as well alongside Valladares, who shares the spotlight with Rashmi Pote, Hetal Shukla, Sudeepti Tucker, Sagar Upwan, Sayon Chatterjee,Illesha Khandelwal, Vasundhara Anand and Sanchit Sawaria. The exhibition’s curator, Ronojoy Sircar, says, “These artworks are concerned with both form and content, but they also exist outside of each, in a space where the performance of art could take place… Each artist showcased is, in their own way, moving towards a performance of the formless.”

A performance of the formless, then, best captures what Valladares is trying to achieve with this art. His latest series, Metal Coral, comprises pieces of various dimensions, all made of molten bronze. He says that he is happy to work on more such pieces in the future. But most of all, he hopes that this encourages more sculptors and young artists and experiment with their style. According to Valladares, we need more pioneers in sculpting. He is one himself.

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