Comment by former Student:
It was not the technical mastery, the material or even the form inherent to Nirman’s sculptures that drew my attention to his work. Rather, his stones seemed to be infused with something invisible, something that cannot be captured with a camera, something alive.
Even though -or maybe because- I did not have any previous training in art, Nirman agreed to take me on as a full-time apprentice. From the beginnings onwards however, he made clear that he had nothing to teach me. He even refused to call me his student for he insisted that the stone, and not him, is my teacher. His role was only that of a ‘translator’, he explained. His intention, he added, was ”to create a space in which children like to play and animals like to come” which was all I needed to understand what his studio space was all about.
Over the years I spent sculpting at his studio, Nirman hardly interfered with my artistic process. He did not show me any ‘techniques’, nor did he school me about different rock types or the ‘appropriate’ utilisation of various tools. What he was concerned with was with creating an open space in which I was able to develop my own understanding of sculpture, of finding form in stone.
The beauty of his teaching -if he has a teaching that is- is that it is always fluid, moving and springing out of the present; nothing is regurgitated, memorized or following a script. When he teaches, each word is crafted live in every moment only to be irrelevant in the next.
I sometimes asked Nirman why he has never tried to capture his approach to art, sculpture and teaching into written form. He responded that he does not know what his approach to art, sculpture and teaching is. For him, the idea of putting nothing into the straitjacket of language is limiting at best. So is the idea of ‘capturing’ something.
Equally, whenever I tried to condense his teaching into my own words, he always insisted that I entirely overheard him. But what he was dismissing was not the degree of accuracy with which I was able to rephrase what he had said, nor was he judging whether I understood the essence of what he was trying to convey. In fact, the closer I managed to put his teaching into (my own) words, the harsher he cut me off. What he was judging, it seemed, was my embodied sense of understanding, not the intellectual: The way I moved around the stone, the decisiveness of the throw of my hammer, the gestures I painted in the air to suggest the shape of the figure, these were the measures by which he judged whether his teaching was understood or not.
– Celestin Büche