Sculptor and art teacher V. Satheesan says that he is on a quest to explore the malleability of granite. His ninth solo exhibition, ‘Stone Age’, begins on October 25

“To me sculpting is as necessary as breathing”, says V. Satheesan, even as he breathes life into inanimate stone and metal with his skilled hands, creating works of art that are at once arresting as they are expressive. Says the city-based sculptor and art teacher, his quiet eyes lighting up with excitement as he talks about his passion for sculpting: “I grew up in Kappil, a small border town in Thiruvanathapuram district, a place full of greenery and paddy fields as far as the eye can see. I am quite reticent a person, one who is at home in the village, and even now, lonely in the crowd of the city. Art has always been the silent language that I communicate with. When other children would be riding their bikes or playing hide and seek, I would be busy creating sculptures with mud and clay.”

That passion continues, only these days the sculptor, who studied at the College of Fine Arts in the city and who holds a masters degree in sculpture from the Delhi College of Arts, prefers to animate his memories of childhood and his travels through art works in stone, fibre glass, metal or any medium that strikes his fancy. Satheesan, who teaches art at Kendriya Vidyalaya, Pattom, and the winner of last year’s Kerala Lalithakala Akademi award for the best sculpture, will be exhibiting 20 of his stone and bronze sculptures in a solo exhibition, ‘Stone Age’ that begins on October 25 at the Art Gallery, Alliance Francaise de Trivandrum. “My sculptures are an extension of my emotions. They are inspired and coloured by my personal experiences, of my childhood and my travels across the country, which have left indelible images in my mind that haunt me till they are transformed into a sculpture.”

Although Satheesan says that his passion for sculpture stems from the sculptures of gods and goddesses that dot our temples, his works in stone are anything but that straightforward. “I wanted to change the 3-D concept of temple sculptures,” he says. Each of Satheesan’s stone and bronze sculptures thus holds a wealth of meaning, offsetting the softness of form with the hardness of stone.

Some are as obvious as ‘Together’, which depicts a yak strutting proudly, with innumerable birds perched on its bronze horns, and symbolising the journey forward, ‘Childhood Memories’ of a kid flying a kite that hark back to a past when life was relatively simple, and ‘Nest’, of an abandoned lamppost where birds have found solace [that is currently in the private collection of writer Zachariah]. Then again, others are as nuanced as ‘Metamorphosis’ and ‘The Awakening Slave’, granite and bronze sculptures of androgynous figures emerging from shells that are self portraits of his evolution as an artist, boxed in by society. ‘Silent Yell’, another one of his signature pieces which will be on display, depicts a man marooned, yelling in vain on a water-logged sinking boat that becomes a symbol of both life and journey.

“I am currently on a quest to explore the softness in granite, to see whether it is as malleable as those childhood attempts with clay and mud. Working with stone gives me a satisfaction that is at once physical as it is emotional. One has to be extra careful while working with stone for one wrong chip at it and six months of hard work can crumble in an instant,” says Satheesan. He uses for his sculptures Krishna shila (black granite) that he himself quarries from Mayiladi, the village near Nagercoil that is known for its stone sculptures. “I use customised tools based on those used by craftsmen in Mayiladi,” says Satheesan.

All the time that he not teaching painting and drawing to his students, he’s to be found in his home-cum-studio in Mukkola that he shares with his wife Rekha and young children, Naveen and Navaneeth. “Because art is part if the syllabus, children learn it, or rather, parents allow children to spend time learning it. Unfortunately, not many of them think of art as a viable career option. I want to change this.”