Sculptor K.S. Sidhan on his brush with famous personalities through his art

When K.S. Sidhan’s hands touch clay to sculpt a portrait of a Malayali icon, he uses the information he has gathered and the knowledge he has, of the person to bring their special personality and spirit into the piece. The artist who has frozen images of various personalities like Vayalar Rama Varma, Devarajan Master and more recently Karunakaran, in time, has carved a niche for himself in the art of sculpting.

“You need likeness and you need to somehow bring out what makes that person special through your work. It could be the warmth of their smile, that drive in them which reflects in their eyes...,” says Sidhan.

The whole face, especially the eyes is what reflects the inner character and soul of the piece, he says. “That is why one pays extra attention when working on the eyes,” says the 44-year-old whose first recollections of himself as a child are of him trying to emulate his father.

An artist and craftsman, his father, V.K. Kamapalan, made works of art out of ivory, wood and the like. “I used to play with mud when I was a child and tried to mould figures out of them. Noting my artistic streak, my father gradually started training me.”

The training began with a drawing book. His father would draw a picture and Sidhan was asked to replicate the image. “Our house was frequented by various artists and craftsmen; I tried to learn as much as I could from them during their visits. From them I learnt clay modelling, how to do cement statues, wood carving...”

Sidhan began his journey into the field of arts and crafts after completing his high school by supplying figurines of Gods and Goddess to various Government owned craft stores in the city.

Apart from craft work, he also does oil paintings. In fact, he and his wife, Sophie, who is also an artist, have conducted a few painting exhibitions together.

“Sidhan the artist got noticed when I did a 61 feet cut out of Sathyananda Saraswathy for a gathering at Putharikandam Maidan. That was 18 years ago.”

Chance, he says led him to Devarajan Master. “A friend of mine introduced me to him as he was on the lookout for a sculptor who could do a bust of Vayalar Rama Varma. Whatever claim to fame I have, I owe it all to him. He was a guru and a father figure all rolled in one.”

The music composer, says Sidhan, had a definite image of Vayalar that he wanted. “Devarajan sir called Vayalar sir, Kuttan. He said he wanted an image of Kuttan in his early days.”

After going through several images of the poet and lyricist, Sidhan finally settled on one and the bronze bust of Vayalar’s which is located at the Vayalar Smaraka Samithi was another defining point in his career.

Working on Devarajan Master’s bust was much easier, says Sidhan as he had met and interacted with the musician. “That piece of work came from the heart.” The artist then moved on to work on statues and busts of personalities such as Guru Gopinath and C.V. Raman (Noble prize winning physicist) to name a few.

The artist whose studio is adjacent to his residence at Manacaud usually begins his day at work at 8 a.m. After a quick lunch and another couple of hours of work, he unwinds himself in the evening with music.

“My wife and I enjoy music and we have song sessions at home. In fact, we plan to release an album shortly with a few songs we have recorded,” says the artist, as he signs off.

Dream project

I hope to one day, work on a series of statues depicting the art forms of Kerala such as Kathakali and Mohiniyattam and even Theyyam. It shouldn’t be just images in stone, there should be a story behind them, a thread to link the statues together. I want my works to inspire people long after I am gone.

The Karunakaran statue

Final touches need to be done on Karunakaran’s statue. We didn’t have time to complete it as the statue had to be put up for the President to inaugurate on his arrival.