Avtarjeet Singh Dhanjal

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Avtarjeet Singh Dhanjal (born 10 April 1940) is an England-based sculptor of Indian origin.[1] As well as a multi-media artist of Indian origin whose work has been shown internationally over four decades, who is nourished by the tension between the cultures of East and West, occupies a singular place in contemporary sculpture.[2] Avtarjeet Dhanjal’s international reputation as an artist derives primarily from his work over many years, especially in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, as a sculptor working in various mediums like wood, aluminium, stone, seeking out the relation to natural substances like weathered rocks and soil in his sculpture . His more recent work is focused on photography, installation and writing. After leaving Art School in 1970, he travelled extensively around East Africa gaining a teaching post with the Kenyatta University College in Nairobi, before giving this up to attend St Martin’s School of Art, London in 1974. Dhanjal seeks to produce art that enhances the quality of human life- in part by inviting silence, stillness and contemplation. He argues that, to be truly creative, the artist needs to disengage himself from the races of contemporary society and the art world itself, that the artist’s quest should be to escape from the crowd and become attuned to the inner silence.[3] Thus, Dhanjal's work draws heavily on his experience of Indian aesthetic traditions, blending them with the influence of European and specifically British modernist sculpture .

Avtarjeet Singh Dhanjal

Early life[edit]

He was born on 10 April 1940 in a small village, Dalla, in Ludhiana, Punjab, India, to a craftsman, where folk arts, crafts and folk poetry were part of daily life without calling them “Art”.

After graduating high school in 1956, he worked as a carpenter, sign-writer, before joining the Arts School at Chandigarh. He got married at the age of eighteen and has three children. During his Art School years in Chandigarh, he produced figurative work in wood, clay, plaster, bronze and stone; abstract work in steel, aluminium and plywood. His first wood carvings were immediately (1966) purchased by the Chandigarh Museum[4] and encouraged him to venture into large works in various mediums.

Again in 1968 his large sculpture about space travel was revealed immediately after the launch of Apollo 8. This was also purchased by the Chandigarh Museum.

As an established artist, Dhanjal travelled to Africa in 1970 where, having visited much of the continent, he secured a teaching post at Kenyatta University College in Nairobi, Kenya. In 1974, he moved to Britain and studied postgraduate sculpture at Saint Martin's School of Art 1974–75 under William Tucker. There his experimental work in aluminium was noticed by Alcan Aluminium (UK) Ltd.

Striving to unite his interests in western modernism and eastern culture and philosophy; Dhanjal organized a Punjabi folk culture study trip in 1978 and a sculpture symposium in the Punjab in 1980. This resulted in a sculpture commission, an abstract work in stone and metal exploring the ground plan of an Indian Temple, a recurring theme in his later works. He realised the importance of village culture, and became very concerned about the pace at which the culture was disappearing. This experience also initiated a process of un-learning the Western idea of art and he began to develop his own conceptualization. During the 1980s Dhanjal received commissions for a number of major public art projects in Britain, India, Brazil and the US. At the beginning of 1990s, Dhanjal went to study temple sculpture and, in 1991, started a complex commission for the Cardiff Bay Development Trust, a sculptural interpretation of The I Ching, the Book of Changes.

He lived in London for 12 years before moving to Ironbridge in 1987, where he still lives and works.


In 1945–55, he did his schooling from Government School, Mallah, Panjab. Avtarjeet Singh Dhanjal did his graduation from Government College of Art, Chandigarh in Sculpture, in 1965–1970. After completing his education in 1970, he left India to tour East Africa in 1971, where he traveled and exhibited his works on paper in Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Ethiopia, and studied the Western influence on traditional woodcarving. In 1974, he moved to Britain and studied postgraduate sculpture at Saint Martin's School of Art 1974–75 under William Tucker.


After completing his schooling he worked in his father’s trade as a carpenter and blacksmith for a period of 3 years from 1955–58. From 1958 to 1965, Dhanjal worked as vehicle body-builder, then sign-painter, both locally and in Delhi. From 1971 to 1973 he taught at Kenyatta University College, Nairobi, Kenya. Not satisfied with the easy job of teaching he left (1974) to study further at the St Martin’s School of Art, London. Lived in London 1975–1987 and moved to Ironbridge in 1987, where he still lives and works. He has supported the visual arts and encourages cultural links between Asia and Britain. He set up the Punjabi Institute exchange programme for students and teachers in the Punjab and Shropshire, and has been a trustee of the South Asian Visual Arts Festival, Sampad and a member of West Midlands Arts board, and has served on their visual arts Panel. The General Post Office, UK, has published a commemorative stamp celebrating Avtarjeet Dhanjal’s 50 years of creativity in 2015.


Dhanjal’s artworks, writings, installations and performances are imbibed with the spirit of Indian values with the essence of village life taking their expression in the set standards of Western artistic mode. The formative study which he undertook at Chandigarh art school during his mid-twenties, gave him the concept of making objects, which he continued doing for many years. Time and intense experimentation refined his vision and practice, and his work eventually culminated in a body of non-figurative art and kinetic experiments in various mediums like metal, stone, wood and with the combinations of all; setting up his creations outdoor, both the creation and the environment supporting each other. His installations consist of sculptural objects that take the forms as stools, benches, steps, wells and pavement slabs; these acts as visual accessories designed to involve viewer in its wholeness physically as well as spiritually, thus, establishing a fine balance between the creator and the viewer.[5] He incorporates various elements in his installations like stones devoid of all human intervention save the little niches carved out to inculcate other elements like water and fire. His Slate works finds evocative of the depth of darkness of the night in the rural Punjab.

Therefore, Dhanjal is one artist, who has produced extraordinary work of international quality for an artist to be in the centre stage. His work has the quality of transcending oneself from mundane to the higher realms – Jacques Rangasamy.[6]

Current projects[edit]

  • Searching for Light – In continuation of series of works in Slate & Candles, alluding to the dark nights in the village, where I grew up in India, present work using camera as a tool to capture the spirit of the dark nights in black and white images.
  • Limitless – "Where scientist’s logic stops, the artist’s" intuition picks up’.

Through my new work on paper and in my writing I am exploring the limitlessness of the space in art in the universe. I am using artist’s intuition to imagine the limitlessness of the universe. I am using the same intuition that was used by Democritus and Anaxagoras to postulate their theory of nuclear structure.


2015: April–May, Power of Silence - exhibition of photographs and drawings at Diversity Gallery, Butetown History & Arts Centre, UK 2007: February–March, Third Culture, Kaapeli, Helsinki, Finland. Apr–May, ‘Their Culture’, Rundetaarn, Copenhagen, Denmark.

2006: Kala Maitri, The Museum of Fine Arts, Chadigarh, India.

2005: 3 in1, OR Gallery, – Malmö, Sweden.

2003: The Gallery, Bristol, England (The Edward Wilmot Blyden Project). Exo Art, Art Hall, Porvo, Finland.

2001: Outside of Inside, Vienna, Austria. Dialogue, St. Petersburg, Russia.

2000: Autumn Saloon, Palace, Krakov, Poland. ’Participation’, Helsinki, Finland.

1997: Survey show organised by Institute of International Visual Arts, London held at the Pitshanger Manor Museum.

1995: Freedom Exhibition for Amnesty International at Glasgow Museum, Baths Gallery Belfast, City Gallery Southampton

1991: Participated in The South of the World show at Galleria Civica d'arte Contemporanea, Marsala, Sicily.

1989: Participated in The Other Story at the Hayward Gallery, London.

1983: Show at Springe Museum, Springe, Germany.

Public commissions[edit]

1999: Commission for Thorpe Meadow Millennium Youth Hostel, Peterborough (uncompleted)

1998: Commission for Swan Bank, [1], Coventry. Commission for [Emslie Horniman Pleasance][2], London Invited to exhibit at Palais de Nations, Geneva, September 1999

1997: Developed the master plan for Farm Park (12-acre inner-city park) Birmingham. (Not materialised)

1996: Commission for [3], Bradford

1992–96: Lead Sculptor for Maltings Park, a 10-acre (40,000 m2) space for the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation, a conceptual piece of sculpture that will weave through the whole park [4]; [5]; [6].

1992: Installation Five Thousand Candles for Justice at the Parque Ibrapuera for the [Museu de Arte Contemporanea][7], São Paulo, Brazil.

1991: An environmental sculpture for the city of Chandigarh, India

1989: Public sculpture for Senneley's Park in Birmingham.

1983: 83 Steps at Margam Park, South Wales.

1987: Invited participant in Intl. competition for Galton Valley, Birmingham. (Not materialised)

1986: Public sculpture, Dunstall Henge. at Peace Green, Wolverhampton.

1985: Two installations for St. Louis Arts Festival. '15 Floating Flames' at the Grand Basin in the City Park and 'Peace Maker' in Maryland Plaza.

1981: Public xculpture for Bodicote House, Banbury, Oxon.

1977: Sculpture for [8]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Monograph published by the Institute of International Visual Arts, 1997

(Available from [InIVA][9], London, Cornerhouse, Manchester)

  • 'Fire, Water & Stone' by S. Hourahane, [Ryusei Ikebana][10], Japan pp. 13–17 August 1991.
  • "Worlds meet in Dhanjal's Art" by C. Andrea, The Christian Science Monitor, 7.1.91 p. 10.
  • 'Acontece' by Alvaro Machado, [Folha de S.Paulo][11], 6.10.1990 p. f11.
  • 'Homeland and Foundland' by [S. Hourahane][12], the [13] London 8/9 1989 pp. 165–172.
  • "Art in Action" by Bill Lonsdale, Landscape Design London, October 1987 pp. 24–27.
  • 'Peace through Sculpture' by Victor Volland, [St. Louis Post Dispatch][14] 28.3.1985 p. 16a.
  • 'Avtarjeet Dhanjal' by Shelagh Hourahane, Sculpture in a Country Park, 1983, Welsh Sculpture Trust, pp. 84–87.
  • Hrastovi Mostovi Pod Gorjanci' by Jelka Sprogar, 7d' Ljublijana September 1982, pp. 8–10
  • 'A Punjabi Sculptor in London' by [Arpana Cour][15], [Indian Express, India][16], 11,11,1978 p 5.
  • 'Sculptures that Sways in the Breeze' by Asif Khan, Morning Echo New Delhi 3.10.1978.

Media Coverage[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.tribuneindia.com/2001/20010217/region.htm Retrieved, 28 January 2010.
  2. ^ iniva. "Iniva - Institute of International Visual Arts". www.iniva.org. Archived from the original on 15 December 2016. Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  3. ^ "Power of Silence - Avtarjeet Dhanjal - Culture Colony". ccqmagazine.com. Archived from the original on 11 June 2016. Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  4. ^ "URL Doesn't exist". chdmuseum.nic.in. Archived from the original on 23 May 2017. Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  5. ^ Jacques Rangasamy, Mirror, mirror on the wall, Beyond Frontiers, Saffron Books p 179-183
  6. ^ In 1991, in the group exhibition “the other story” at the Hayward Gallery, Jacques Rangasamy was asked by the gallery to organise exhibition tours, he started each of his tour from Dhanjal’s work space and ended it there. (source- A talk with Jacques Rangasamy)