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Updated: February 15, 2012 19:03 IST

Inspired by life

Nita Sathyendran
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Usha Ramachandran with her bronze sculpture of the 'Dancing Girl.' Photo:S. Mahinsha.
The Hindu
Usha Ramachandran with her bronze sculpture of the 'Dancing Girl.' Photo:S. Mahinsha.

Usha Ramachandran's ‘Sketches n' Bronze' – an exhibition of charcoal sketches and bronze sculptures – is inspired by images from daily life

Inspiration strikes artist and sculptor Usha Ramachandran from almost everywhere. “It might be something I read in the newspaper, in a magazine; something I see on the road; something I experience, hear about; something on Facebook…,” says Usha, with a sweep of her hand, in the direction of her many sketches and bronze sculptures, some of which will be on display at an exhibition titled ‘Sketches n' Bronze' at the Art Gallery, Alliance Francaise de Trivandrum, from today.

Ever since the 62-year-old homemaker, who has always been interested in art, gave free reign to her creative side at 59 (once her husband, Ramachandran, retired from the civil service, and she had “lots of free time”), Usha has become known for her live-action sculptures in bronze. They capture moments in time such as a goalie diving to catch a football (‘The Diving Save'), a young washerwoman in action (‘The Little Laundress'), and so on.

Live action image

Her latest exhibition features eight of her new sculptures, one of the most outstanding being the ‘Dancing Girl.' This particular bronze sculpture captures a coltish, long-limbed Bharatanatyam dancer in the midst of a performance. Actor-dancer Shobana…? “Yes!” she says with a delighted laugh. “It is one of my most challenging works yet. It was difficult to mould the mudras (hand gestures) as they appear in a photograph of the artiste I came across,” adds Usha. Another interesting sculpture freezes in time, a man pedalling away on a bicycle, his scarf flying in the wind. This time around Usha has experimented with modernistic themes for her sculptures too. One of the more interesting ones is a teak wood carving of a woman's head, her tresses (or perhaps it's a shroud) in undulating, embossed bronze. Another in this series vaguely resembles the bust of an owl, its ears sticking up, eyes morose.

It was a chance meeting with a city-based artist and art teacher V. Satheesan, who had come to her maiden painting exhibition, that led Usha to bronze sculpting.

“He offered to teach me and gave me his contact number but I don't think he thought I was serious about learning to sculpt until I actually called him. My ‘classmates' were five year olds!” recalls Usha with a laugh.

“Bronze sculptures are the work of many hands. I first model them with beeswax and then take them to Ayyappan in Chalai for casting (he uses the ancient technique of sandblasting), then I work on them and put in finishing touches and finally I take it to be polished by Kennedy in East Fort,” explains the artist, who will also display 26 of her charcoal and pastel sketches at the exhibition.

“It's the first time I am exhibiting my sketches,” says Usha, almost shyly. “Sketching is something that I do to relax,” she adds. Among her sketches is a set of three on the destitute widows of Vrindavan, “inspired by a recent newspaper article on a woman abandoning her mother.” The stark black and white images perfectly capture the loneliness and the vacuum-filled lives of these abandoned women. Another sketch depicts a typical “temple samvadham (discussion),” a common sight of yesteryear when men used to gather near the local temple to catch up with each other. Usha's take on the issue of migrant labour features a labourer dressed in pants and baseball cap harvesting paddy. A portrait of an old woman, her weather-beaten face crinkling into a frown is “inspired by a photograph by Thulasi Kakkat, a photographer with The Hindu.”

The exhibition will be inaugurated by N.N. Rimzon today at 5.30 p.m. and is on till March 2, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Contact: 2320666.

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