Each sculpture in artist Shilpi Rajan's exhibition at the Kerala Lalitakala Akademi was a picture of multiple moods.
That artists should not imitate is Shilpi Rajan's motto. Therefore following a set of prescribed rules is, naturally, quite unthinkable for the renowned artist.
“I never repeat my works,” quipped Rajan as he pointed out his sculptures, which were on display at the Kerala Lalitakala Akademi in Thrissur from April 28 to May 4. And true to his word, each of the 64 sculptures on show at the exhibition titled ‘Kalkkathal,' was unique. This was Rajan's 11th solo exhibition since he started sculpting back in 1984.
The self-taught sculptor revels at depicting varying moods in the same sculpture. “Perhaps it is because I do not complete a sculpture at a stretch.
“Although gloom would appear to be the dominant mood,the sculptures actually reflect my mood at that particular point of time when I worked on them,” explained Rajan.
“As in life, a sculpture too cannot bear a permanent mood,” he added.
What strikes one the most is the influence of folk culture in the sculptures. His human figurines bear clear traces of folk and tribal deities found in the State.
Perhaps it is because the artist cannot escape the social milieu in which he grew up. As such, Rajan leaves behind a touch of his identity and originality even in his commissioned works.
A wooden sculpture depicting Parvati and Ganapati and one of Koodiyattam maestro Chahchu Chakyar in granite are examples.
Of the sculptures that were exhibited, 13 were in granite and four in laterite. None of them has been given a name. “The meaning of a sculpture cannot be contained in a name. It is for the viewer to interpret the meanings for themselves,” said the artist. There is one work though that is special to him, he said.
It is a long wooden piece that depicts elephants huddled together, each standing on another and with a woman at the top. The message conveyed is that elephants are so gentle that they can be managed even by one woman.
“It also signifies the inter-relationship between animals and nature,” he said.
An eye that is not shaped well or a lip that is not in place does not seem to faze the artist and he appears not to be unduly worried about sticking to the norms of sculpting. Studying the sculptures of others, he said, was not of any value to him.
“I feel that sculpture should not be taught. Rather, it should be developed in the course of one's own practice of the art,” said Rajan.