- An interview with artist and sculptor Tyrell Valladares from Metalhead Studio
Tyrell Valladares is an artist and sculptor who heads MetalHead Studio and has curated installations for the #WalkInWithJohnnie campaign recently. Here’s learning more about the campaign, sculpting and art in India. Excerpts from an interview with Valladares
1 – With Johnnie Walker, what is the message and how are you creating installations that best represent that message?
As part of the #WalkInWithJohnnie campaign, the brand wanted to showcase hope and the spirit of moving forward in light of the pandemic. In the last few months, the brand had encouraged consumers to walk into their favourite bars with an empty bottle and leave it behind to witness it being turned into live-size glass installations of the Striding Man. In line with the brand ethos, my idea was to portray the struggles that we have all been through together in recent times. This art installation titled ‘The Striding Lantern’ has been made with pieces of broken glass that symbolise us and the difficulties we face with an aim to move forward together, with the striding man as our inspiration.
2 – Tell us about the project with Johnnie Walker describing the challenges, the opportunities that came across your way
My design concept for Johnnie Walker’s installation titled ‘The Striding Lantern’ was something unique that I had never attempted to make before. The concept had to be larger than life to represent the brand and working with the old glass bottles to create something new was the perfect fit. I have worked with glass as a material before but nothing on this scale. The major task at hand was the size of the installation itself as the glass has the tendency to break and shatter making it difficult to control or manipulate at times. This project has given me the opportunity to push myself to create a new, awe-inspiring, out-of-the-box art.
3 – Tell us more about the ideation, message and how easy or difficult was it to work with discarded bottles and create art out of it?
It started off with a vision to create an illuminated art piece that represents the spirit of forging forward through pushing our boundaries. The conceptualisation and messaging for it was an effortless process, but the tough part was working with glass as a material to create a life-size installation. Not only was breaking the glass time-consuming but it is also difficult to get the right size for each piece the way you want it. It was important to keep the look and feel in line with the creative concept along with controlling the weight of the installation. And it is through such challenges where some of my best work has emerged, and I’m very happy with the outcome of this project here.
4 – What’s next in the #WalkInWithJohnnie series in particular and with Metalhead in general?
Initially, I was commissioned to do four Art installations for the campaign #WalkInWithJohnnie. Since the start of inception, I have deployed three installations in Estella and Khar Social, Mumbai and 10 Downing Street, Hyderabad and I am left to install the last one. All the installations are different from each other but they all portray the same message of keep walking no matter the difficulties.
With regards to projects with Metalhead, I’ve just completed a public artwork showcased for ‘The Kalaghoda Art Festival’. I designed the concept to portray the realities of the modern world especially climate change and for us as citizens of Mumbai there is a subtle message to seek change, to make better choices and to safeguard our future. I’m also simultaneously working on a couple of art installations for a new residential project.
Most of the work I do are based on my client’s requirement, however I also enjoy working with different materials especially recycled metal and I recently showcased one such collection at the Tao Art Gallery in Mumbai that was very well received.
5 – Please share a little background about yourself and Metalhead with us
I’m a person who can’t sit idle. From being a sportsman in school and college to my first job in aviation, I have had an opportunity to see different parts of the world and helped shape my future. I started out my career as a metal artist and sculptor in 2012. It was a hobby that evolved into making art, which is when my company Metalhead was born. I have always enjoyed seeking inspiration from recycled and up-cycled material and I have had the good fortune to work with great clients over the years who gave me complete artistic freedom to bring my designs to life. Apart from metal, be it recycled or molten, I have also worked with glass, resin, wood, tile, and all sorts of scrap materials as well. My company takes up various projects from interior design to light art installations, street art or signage, bespoke furniture and various types and styles of art.
Personally, the pandemic made it extremely difficult to procure materials and this got me looking around trying to source different materials to work with and to think and move out of my comfort zones and flirt with the unfamiliar.
6 – From aviation to art, how have things evolved on your professional journey?
I started working on my art in 2012 and just as art is ever-evolving, so is my journey as an artist. I have never restricted myself to any particular medium be it glass or metal and I’m always open to working with new and different materials that keeps me going. Learning about new materials is always interesting and you never know what you can achieve until you try it. My inspiration comes from all around me and I started my career using scrap metal and recycled materials. However, I don’t restrict myself to just that. As most of my work is commissioned, the design process followed by the pitch is my first challenge, after which executing is where all the fun lies. I hope to continue to evolve in my art, as an artist and in life and never stop learning.
7 – Which Indian and foreign artists do you look up to and why?
I enjoy art in all its forms and so there are so many artists all through the ages that have inspired me and whose work I admire. I might not be able to choose a favourite but definitely the works of Salvador Dali, Van Gogh have always stuck with me; and in modern times the works of Banksy and Rohan Joglekar.
8 – What space do installations occupy in the Indian mindset? Is it changing?
India is still opening itself up to the world of art. For years, art would only be considered in the form of historic paintings and sculptures in our country. So, as an art community, we are still opening up to an individual’s approach to art and the different ways an artist expresses themselves, whatever the medium may be.
9 – What are some of your best installations outside of this project?
My very first installation will always be most dear to me because of its sheer size and my experience working on it within a very short deadline. It was a 20-foot-tall World Cup Cricket Jersey, for a leading sportswear brand, made entirely out of recycled metal sprockets. Another project was the mosaic art that I designed and installed on the steps of Mount Mary’s in Bandra, Mumbai, while also fighting against time. All of my projects allow me to have a completely unique experience right from the get-go. All of my work represents a part of me and I do hope people appreciate it and can take away from it the idea that nothing is impossible.
10 – What do you wish for people to take away from your art?
‘No matter what the challenge is, look for the light and you will always find a way to overcome it.’
11 – How long does each installation usually take from ideation to execution?
Duration of executing an installation depends on factors like what is the material, format, and concept. Art in any form inspires and transcends me into a space where I enjoy the process. Hence, I can say that the final outcome gives me immense satisfaction. No matter the hurdle, I do breathe life into an idea in the end.
For instance, the installation created for the campaign #WalkInWithJohnnie, took me approximately eighteen to twenty days from conceptualizing, research, completion of the entire artwork, and bringing alive the life-size Striding Man of over 6.5 feet in height and 150 kgs in weight.
12 – What feedback have you got from your installation at Estella so far?
I’ve been overwhelmed and extremely humbled at all the positive feedback that I’ve received about the Art Installation that has been placed at Estella. It is being called unique and people are amazed to see one-of-a-kind installations made using broken pieces of recycled glass. Many people have also taken to social media to show their appreciation. I hope all my other installations that I have created for Johnnie Walker gets similar kind of appreciation.