‘Harmony of Nature - A Concerto of Art’ was the unveiling of Ambika Hinduja’s creation, a bespoke sculptural baby grand piano at the Victoria and Albert Museum on 18th October 2023. Ambika was inspired by the ephemeral nature of the seasons; the golden and copper hues of autumn leaves, the sounds of a shifting forest, and the sacred knowledge of trees. ‘Harmony of Nature’ was designed as an exploration of where and how sound and sculpture converge.
"Tune in to the harmony of nature and trust yourself to the sound, listen to the soft whisper of a falling leaf and the song of a moonlit stone, rustling trees play a wild symphony to awaken the soul, their roots cradled in wisdom, ever ready to be shared.” Ambika Hinduja
Envisioned and created for a private commission by patron of the arts and chairperson of the JSW foundation Sangita Jindal, the design of the sculpture encompasses recurring themes from Ambika’s work and artistic curation. Through her company, Impeccable Imagination, she has been championing the work of international artists and designers inspired by the natural world and its forms, a subject she later explored in her own artistic practice.
Deeply inspired by nature with autumnal leaves as the starting point for the sculpture, Ambika distilled her inspiration into a harmonious form, creating a sculptural, artistic interpretation of the leaf in collaboration with Goldfinch, a specialist division of Edelweiss Pianos based in Cambridge, UK.
The musical instrument, at the heart of the sculpture, an acoustic Edelweiss Goldfinch baby grand piano hand built in the UK with self-play and manual play options informed Ambika’s work from the onset.
The baby grand is enveloped in bronze and clad in 22.5k moon-gold leaf, replicating the textures of nature. From a distance, the sculptural silhouette of the curled, dried shape of the leaf creates a vacillating illusion of its appearance, from the abstract to the real, up until the point the flap is lifted to reveal the glistening black and white keys held open by a thin twig-like curvilinear support when the piano is in manual play.
From above, the sculpture reveals the exposed frame and soundboard, covered by an invisible mesh to protect the chords. It is from this point of view that the natural form of Ambika’s creation comes to life, revealing the elongated, elegant form from tip to petiole. The back of the sculpture features two sets of mesh-covered circular holes, essential for the piano’s functionality, also referencing the natural features of fallen leaves. To contribute to the piece’s distinctive aesthetic, she also created a stool for the pianist, shaped like a small pebble covered in the moon gold leaf.
Ambika studied a diverse range of leaves from varied species, in multiple colours, and states of fall and decay. Reflecting on how nature reveals, renews and adapts itself to change over time, she recreated an ideal leaf-like structure that is a marriage of nature, sculpture and technology.
The sculptural piano, ‘Harmony of Nature', was played by Palak Chauhan, a 14-year-old prodigious Western Classical Pianist from Chennai, a student at the Academy award winner Dr. AR Rahman's KM Music Conservatory, nurtured under the tutelage of the virtuoso Pianist, Dr. Surojeet Chatterji, an alumnus of Moscow Conservatory, and Mr. Niteen Dongare, a most exceptional musician & pianist.
The Concerto of Art was attended by over 400 esteemed guests, and the sculptural piano was unveiled by RT Hon Lucy Frazer, Secretary of State for Culture, Media, and Sport and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as Guests of Honour, along with Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber.
What is the sensation we experience while interacting with nature when words fail or we find ourselves awed beyond reason? How does an artist convey the indescribable and translate the metaphysical to material? ‘The Sublime Nature of Being’ explores the humbling, purity of the natural cosmos and our relationship to it by creating imagined, transportive worlds, conjured through the magic of creativity.
For centuries, scholars have debated the term ‘Sublime’ in relation to works of art, and artists have sought to evoke or respond to it. But what is ‘The Sublime’? The sublime is a philosophical approach and state of mind often defined as having the quality of such greatness, whether spiritual, physical, aesthetic or moral, that our ability to perceive or comprehend it is temporarily overwhelmed by a sense of the wonder and impermanence of the universe.
‘The Sublime Nature of Being’ explores aspects of this philosophy and the modern interpretation of the Japanese term ‘Ukiyo’ meaning ‘living in the moment, detached from the bothers of life,’ and examines the belief that contemplation of these themes leads to the subsequent feelings of admiration and responsibility. This allows for the intertwining of aesthetics and ethics, two key elements that are relevant to society today, especially in light of change and apprehension as we consider the future of humanity.
Creating an immersive and multisensory experience that includes three-dimensional installations, sound and scent, a play on time and space, contrasts of light and shadow, elemental materials and fluid forms, ‘The Sublime Nature of Being’ invites the audience on a unique journey with a contemplative dimension – a search for a higher truth. By stepping into the space, one is transported into a utopian sanctuary of tranquility and beauty, providing a temporary reprieve and poetic antidote to the external chaos of the present day.