Large stone pillars, an unusual sculpture of an angel and carved wooden statues greet you as you step into the Crimson Crux studio on Warren Road, Mylapore. “The pillar is not made of stone and the statues are not wooden,” P. Alagar raja stuns you with that piece of information. And he actually lifts the pillar to prove it!
The materials used? “Coade stone or LS (lightweight stone) and fibre do the trick.” The artist and creative head of the studio goes on to explain, coade stone is artificial stone, commonly used in the aerospace, automotive, marine, and construction industries. It has the look and the feel of natural stone, is not too heavy, can be carved intricately and is suitable for indoors and outdoors.”
There’s evident pride in Alagar’s voice as he talks about the magic material. “It is water resistant, UV rays-resistant, non-corrosive, easy to maintain, and most vital, it last long… for 50 years and more!”
A trendsetter of sorts, Alagar raja is perhaps the first artist here to use artificial stone and fibre for decorating homes and offices, converting them into unique objet d’art at Crimson Crux, a studio that he and his trusted lieutenants, wife and MD Bhuvaneswari Alagar Raja and Bhuveneswari Murali, a director, have been running for over 12 years now. Two years ago, they branched out into Narpavi (it means doing good all the time) that specialises in traditional art accessories such as garden statues, puja mandaps and doors, lamp shades, ornate free standing pillars and life-size figurines of gods and goddesses.
Wide range of artefacts
Alagar raja, a product of the College of Arts, Chennai, does not restrict himself to these media. He uses gold, silver, brass, copper, glass and wood, and mixed media to create dramatic artefacts and much more. “From wall art to compound wall decoration, from railings and fountains to plant holders and panels, from Chettinad pillars to Mahabalipuram-inspired murals… we can make anything. Show us the space and we can transform it into a work of art. All this is possible thanks to the superb support I get from my team of artists, including my chief assistant Bhaskar. In fact, Bhaskar is the one who gives concrete shape to my imagination.”
Piece de resistance
So how does he go about giving shape to a project? Alagar raja explains, “When we get a commission, the first things we look into are size, shape, requirement and space. After we establish these parameters, a rough sketch is made. Once approved by the client, the product begins its journey towards its final look.” A design that Alagar raja holds close to his heart is a classy dining table he designed for a customer in the U.S. The oval glass top is supported by four glass clad legs and copper lotuses.
Another project that he cherishes is a mural titled ‘Shiva Vishnu’ done using gold, silver, copper, brass, aluminum and iron. “I have tried to illustrate the diverse facets of Siva and Vishnu and the ultimate truth – God is one, forms are many.” He adds, “Every time I get a new order, it opens the doors of imagination and innovation; each project is a new experience. It gives me an opportunity to let my imagination take flight and bring out the best in me.”
Some of Alagar raja’s clients include Sri Krishna Sweets, Isha Signature Villas, Real Value Homes and Trisakthi Group, besides scores of individuals. In fact, he will soon begin work on the 30-ft dome of the Sri Ramakrishna Math in Chicago. For Alagar raja, inspiration comes from various quarters – the architecture of the Hoysala temples of Belur and Halebid, the floral motifs from the royal residences in Rajasthan, the Chettinad palaces, and even the Bali temples.
What really excites the artist, you wonder. “Fountains,” says Alagar raja. “For me, they are an extension of Nature in all her pristine glory. I made a beautiful fountain using the Buddha theme for a client. Similarly, I transformed one wall of the living room into a ‘jungle’… complete with a waterfall. The possibilities are myriad. It is something that I want to pursue more doggedly.”
All about cladding
Yet another technique that give Alagar raja great pleasure is cladding. “It is a process of covering one material with another. Cladding can be done using metal, fibre or copper. A traditional or contemporary touch can be added to pillars by just cladding them.” He points out to a yazhi pillar where cladding had been done to splendid effect.
Alagar raja is happy with the encomiums he has earned for his work here and aboard. But that is not enough, he says. He wants to pass on his knowledge to those eager to learn the nuances. He hopes to start art classes at the Warren Road premises soon. (“Just working out the logistics,” he says). Retailing his creations is yet another aspect of his expansion plans. “We are in talks with various outlets to stock puja accessories and gift items. “Hopefully something will come out of it. All I want is for more and more people to add a dash of artistic beauty to their lives.”
(Crimson Crux/Narpavi is located at 88/14, Warren Road, Mylapore, ph: 4231 3000 or 99406 21163.)
Keywords: Ramakrishna Math