Srinivasa Raghavan's glass figurines are inspired by the everyday
“It is just like drawing or pottery. Only, I do it with flame and glass,” says Srinivasa Raghavan, who makes sculptures from glass. While scores of people create etched and coloured glassware such as goblets and lampshades, Raghavan happens to be one of the few artists in South India who create true glass sculptures.
For many years now, he has amazed onlookers by creating complicated glass sculptures such as a dancing Nataraja, a bullock cart, or even a multi-figured structure like a chariot scene, from mundane glass rods, in a matter of minutes. It takes about six minutes for the molten glass sculpture to cool and fully solidify, which is about five times longer than the time it takes for Srinivasa to sculpt the figure!
“Glass is just like clay, silica is a constituent of both. Only, glass has no real melting point, it just softens when its temperature changes by a degree from 1399 degrees C to 1400 degrees C, and this is when you have to shape it,” he says. “Since it is a bad conductor of heat, a glass rod that is long enough allows itself to be held, while its other end is molten hot,” he adds.
This scientific understanding stems from the fact that Raghavan initially trained to be a scientific glass blower. But blowing unimaginative test tubes and conical flasks for labs left him restless, and he started sculpting glass figurines to alleviate the monotony. When people started buying these glass sculptures from him, he decided to turn a full time glass artist and moved to Chennai. Down the years, he has garnered enough expertise to not just teach simple glass blowing at schools and to others enthusiastic about glass, but even conduct workshops for glass artists themselves, in countries such as The Netherlands, Singapore and Malaysia. He has worked with famous contemporary glass artists from around the world such as U.S.- based Roger Paramore, and attended last year's World Glass Conference at Seattle and the Leardom International Conference for Glassblowers at The Netherlands in 2004.
The irony is, while the global glass-art icons with whom Raghavan hobnobs learnt the art at high-profile institutes, this unassuming man from a small village in Thanjavur learnt it all by himself, through trial and error. And the fact that his sculptures are very much affordable make them even more attractive.