As an artist, U.M.T. Raja expresses his joys and sorrows through his miniature carvings

For this artist, the pencil is mightier than the sword. When Kannagi's statue was re-installed on the Marina in Chennai, he was delighted. And, he chose to express his happiness by carving out forms in pencil. " Being a goldsmith by profession, I chose things which are easily available at my place; so I did a miniature carving of Kannagi on a pencil head," says U.M.T. Raja. Personalities like Periyar and Thiruvalluvar also find a place in his collection on black pencil heads.

Kannagi in gold

"Some people organise functions to express happiness; I chose to do it this way. I have also made a Kannagi figurine in 50 mg gold to gift to the Chief Minister," he adds.Hailing from a middle class family, Raja is on the look out for sponsors to promote his creativity. He also wants to draw the attention of art directors. " I wanted to take up a career in art direction. Because, looking at things with an artistic eye makes all the difference in this profession. I can take my creative skills to a higher level if my work gets noticed," he adds. His work also includes carvings of eminent leaders in rice and in mustard seeds.

Channelling energy

His tools? " My fingers, needle and concentration. The work demands patience because the pencil head keeps breaking. I have learnt yoga which has helped me channel my energy. When I start working, I am completely oblivious to my surrounding. If someone keeps tea at my elbow or even if a needle pricks my finger and blood starts oozing out, I am indifferent to it. That is the level of concentration the work demands," he adds. Raja teaches yoga and is also into mimicry. " It is out of sheer interest that I acquired such skills. Sculpting runs in my family. My forefathers have played a role in carving sculptures at the famous Perur temple in Coimbatore. As a reward, they were given houses in which some of our family members are still living," Raja adds.To hone his skills in sculpting, he visits places like Mahabalipuram, Kanyakumari, Mysore and Mamallapuram regularly. " I observe with keen interest the amount of work that has gone behind every sculpture in such places."Raja has also created a black wax model of Kannagi that is a replica of the one in Chennai. "If you notice, there are a group of people on the platform, all sculpted in 1 mg gold and silver, jumping in joy with their hands up in the air," he explains.He says his art is his way of externalising his reaction to development in the society. " When the tsunami struck, I expressed my sadness through wax models. People read about this in the newspaper and there was response even from London. This time of course I am expressing my happiness," he concludes.K.JESHI

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