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Fragile art

The inside of an egg is Sivashanmugham's canvas

`EGG'CELLENT CRAFTMANSHIP: The enigmatic Mona Lisa comes alive under torchlight. — Pics: S. Siva Saravanan.

IT LOOKS like any other eggshell but for a small hole in the middle. Strain your eyes and take a peek into it and you'll be transported to an artistic world, featuring portraits of the enigmatic Mona Lisa, President, Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and a host of deities.

Beautiful paintings adorn the inner wall of fragile shell. They are the result of the painstaking work put in by M. M. Sivashanmugham, an art teacher from Mecheri in Salem district.

Sivashanmugham, who has been at it from 1969, will showcase his exhibits between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. at Photo Centre, Race Course, on December 25 and 26.

And, the inspiration for doing something like this? Missing out a prize in a Chennai art exhibition as a student. "Not winning the prize spurred me on to do something different to prove my artistic skills. On seeing holes being drilled in an egg, I wondered if I could use those holes to draw on the inside of the shell. Luckily, the idea clicked," he recalls.

A reproduction of President Abdul Kalam.

Satisfied, he decided to improvise on this novel method to make it error-free. He now inserts special angular brushes and paints on the inner layer. It takes days, sometimes even months, to finish just one piece.

First, Sivashanmugham makes a one-millimetre hole in the egg. Using a syringe, he removes the inside of the egg and washes it. Drying takes some days. He then starts working on it. "I use watercolours and everything is just `touch and feel'. I don't know how the work is shaping up inside. Even the slightest tremble is enough to break the shell. I once spent 600 hours to complete a painting," he says.

Sivashanmugham, who made it to the Limca Book of World Records in 2001, has more than 70 such paintings to his credit. The latest include a beautiful Mona Lisa and Lord Krishna.

His paintings have been exhibited in the Cymrosa Gallery, Mumbai and Sivashanmugham (Ph: 04298-278421) also has a permanent stall in the gallery of the British Egg Information Service, London.

Artist Sivashanmugham.

The artist, who has sketched images of personalities such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Abdul Kalam, says the time taken to complete a painting depends on the nature of work.

For a painting of Lord Nataraja, he spent close to 30 months, while Lord Krishna was relatively easy - it took just 20 days.

Has he broken many shells? "Hundreds of them. But none of the completed works has developed cracks," he says, smiling.

"You should have a lot of patience. Otherwise, nothing will work," he adds.

"The main idea behind the expo is to motivate youngsters and expose them to this genre of painting," says P. C. Raju, Managing Trustee of the Saradhambal Educational and Charitable Trust, which has organised the show.


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