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Story in sculpture

The sculptures at an engineering college mark a new beginning in the creative expressions of A. V. Ilango and Shalini Biswajit

UTSAV A. V. Ilango's work embodying culture as an important feature in student life

A. V. Ilango and Shalini Biswajit, acknowledged names in the Chennai art scene, are both professional artists who have exhibited widely in India and abroad. Shalini who runs Forum Art gallery also works in interior design. Exploring beyond their customary repertoire, both Ilango and Shalini are currently experimenting with different media. Their delving into new channels for formatting the artistic idiom has materialised outside of Chennai, at the Kongu Engineering College in Perundurai, near Erode. A leading multi-professional and research-oriented institution affiliated to the Anna University, the college is sited on 190 acres of natural beauty and it is this beauty that a sculptural commission seeks to enhance. Both artists view it as a new beginning, a new phase in their creative expression, which they hope to build upon.

Cultural aspect

While Ilango has related to the cultural aspect of student life with his sculpture, Shalini's works place emphasis on the academic. Ilango's characteristic female forms have taken on a new avatar. Born out of boulders rather than the familiar acrylic colours that one associates with him, the figures retain his signature lyrical line but take on the weight of the new medium. His work grows out of the rocky terrain that forms the site of the college. `Utsav', the sculptural composition of eight dancing forms made of granite and mild steel, embodies culture as an important feature in student life. In `Kongu Nadu', the area where the college is situated, the rhythm of dance and music pulsates within the agrarian community — hence Ilango's simplified rendition of Kaavadi and Karagam. The human touch on the rock is minimal with the raw texture of the granite speaking volumes and the changing relationship between light and dark areas adding a visual cadence.

Human aspirations

Shalini has created two sets of sculptures in stainless steel with brushed finish on the theme of human aspirations. Using the concept of education and growth, her composition `Aspirations: Looking Back' deals with the past. Consisting of a cow and human figure, it tackles the relationship between the area and the institution. Students hailing from the area belong predominantly to an agricultural background, their ancestors having engaged in cultivation and crop growing for many years. The cow stands testimony to that fact. The human figure embodying the student, however, is free from the restraints of his past and is allowed the dream of pursuing an education — he stands tall near his past looking towards the future.

To aspire and excel is the underlying theme of her other work `Aspirations: Looking Ahead', which portrays two boys and two girls signifying the student community of the college, standing confidently beside a `tree' of education. The tree bears various elements like screws, nuts, pliers, engineering tools, blades, rulers and compact discs that are symbolic of the many branches of engineering offered for study at the college. This sculpture seeks to exemplify that having gained a good education, the students are ready to face the corporate world and their spirits fly high just as the soaring kite attached to the last branch of the tree.

Both these Chennai-based artists have broken new ground in terms of changing the course of their expression and also in initiating an aesthetic ambience within an environment meant for technical learning.


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