The weather-beaten bull in metal by renowned sculptor Raghav Kaneria in Subhash Park is a harsh reminder of how Kochi has totally forgotten that it once took steps to build a modern artistic heritage for itself.
The dozen or so sculptures, of 1990 vintage, in the park used to be a hit with visitors to the city. They have now been forgotten and totally neglected. There is now even a complex of bathrooms and toilets that block the view of a row of these granite sculptures on the south end of Subhash Park.
On Sunday, a young man relaxing in the park was seen sitting atop one of the sculptures while several other sculptures were seen buried under grass. Even the work by the late Japanese sculptor Mikami Hiroshi has not been spared by the passage of time and the city’s amnesiac tendencies.
Each of them had a story of its own, said K. J. Sohan, the then Mayor of the Corporation of Cochin. He, along with city-based artists like T. Kaladharan, took the lead in organising the sculpture symposium. That was first time Kochi hosted world renowned artists on such a scale.
The 1990 event was a forerunner to Koch biennale, said Mr. Kaladharan. “The Kochi biennale has found a place in the heart of art lovers across the globe,” he said. “The second edition of event would go on stage in 2014 and it is time the city’s historic forays into the world of modern art is revived,” said Mr. Sohan.
Mayor of the Kochi Corporation Tony Chammany told The Hindu on Sunday the city council was serious about restoring these sculptures and giving them a pride of place in the city landscape.
Mr. Kaladharan recalled that the Sculpture Symposium was organised under a lot of expectations. There was once a plan to erect sculptures at prominent places within the city. The work that adorns the lawn of Greater Cochin Development Authority at Kadvanathara is an example.
Another major event on the artistic landscape of Kochi was the Vishwa Kala Sanghamam which, in late 2001, hosted 31 artists, including 10 sculptors at the Changampuzha Park, Edappally. Among those who participated in the Kala Sanghamam or confluence of art were Paul Litherland and Karen Trask, from Canada; Reiko Nireki from Japan and V. K. Rajan and Sudarshan Shetty from India.
Mr. Kaladharan and senior artist M.V. Devan were part of the organising team which included the Changampuzha Cultural Centre, the Stone Foundation of Thrissur and the Kerala Kalapeetom in Kochi.
The then president of the Changampuzha Cultural Centre, which is a hub of cultural activities in the city, K. Balachandran said on Sunday that the sculptures that came up after the Kala Sanghamam had been looked after well. He said the works were cleaned periodically to keep them in good shape.
The idea of maintaining artistic works in public spaces as part of our visual landscape was still not taken too seriously here, said theatre director Chandradas, who frequents Changampuzha Park as part of his work.
He said maintaining sculptures or installations in the open was a difficult task given our weather conditions. The weather and climate factors had to be taken into consideration, he said pointing out how a wooden installation, one of the outcomes of the 2001 event in Changampuzha Park, was totally damaged in its exposed condition.