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Sculptor Kanayi Kunhiraman honoured with Nanjunda Rao National Award for Art

The bronze statue of Kengal Hanumanthaiah in Vidhana Soudha, the bust of Vikram Sarabai at the Vikram Sarabai Space Centre or the 10-foot tall yaksha/yakshi sculptures at the entrance of the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath (CKP) reveal the deft hands of Kanayi Kunhiraman.

The Kasargod-based sculptor is the first recipient of Chitrakala Parishath’s newly-instituted Prof MS Nanjunda Rao National Award for Art. The award will be conferred on January 5 at CKP.

“His sculptures are part of larger public spaces and his broad pedestals allow for people to take a break or have a conversation on them,” says artist HA Anil Kumar, Head, Department of Art History, CKP. “Most of his group sculptures are tall enough to provide shade for people walking by.”

Sculptor Kanayi Kunhiraman honoured with Nanjunda Rao National Award for Art
 

Kunhiraman has many firsts to his credit From the Raja Ravi Varma National Award for Art and taking part in the International Sculpture Camp at Patiala to having a book on his work by the Central Lalithkala Academy in 2008.

“I feel honoured to be receiving award,” Kunhiraman said on the phone. “I have just turned 80, and will consider the award a gift for my birthday. I could not receive it last year as I was unwell. I will be happy to be there during the Chitra Santhe.”

Sculptor Kanayi Kunhiraman honoured with Nanjunda Rao National Award for Art
 

The sculpture department at CKP, says Kunhiraman, is responsible for bringing this art form to the fore and producing nearly three dozen nationally-recognised sculptors. “My association with CKP goes back to more than five decades. People were open to my kind of sculptures and gave me the freedom to do them,” says Kunhiraman, adding that “I would be happy to take up more projects in Bengaluru.”

Kunhiraman, who was one of the first to introduce modernity in sculpture in Kerala, has become synonymous with modern sculpture. “The unconventional spaces and the signature art practice created by Kunhiraman were accepted gradually as part of an institutionalised activity, according to artist Vijayakumar Menon who wrote the foreword to the book on Kunhiraman.

Sculptor Kanayi Kunhiraman honoured with Nanjunda Rao National Award for Art
 

In the late 1950s and 60’s, while a student of the Madras College of Arts and Crafts, Kunhiraman experimented with the sheet metal sculpture whose two dimensional aspects fascinated him at both the intellectual and aesthetic levels.

“Artist Vidyashankar was with me when I was experimenting with two dimensional works, but it was Janakiram who made the medium popular,” says Kunhiraman whose sensibilities were later occupied with the concept of motherhood.

Kunhiraman’s studied in England in the mid-1960s and that gave him him a new conviction about personality, identity and distinctiveness of thought and style. “His pre-occupation with metal-sheet, welding, stone, concrete and clay were of great help when he studied under Rug Butler in Slades School of Art in London,” adds Menon.

Kunhiraman studied at Slades thanks to the British Commonwealth Scholarship. “His idols were accessible to the public,” says MJ Kamalakshi, General Secretary, CKP.

“His idols never created a fear of sacred religiosity that distances people, rather they created an air of approachability with folk elements for creative detailing,” explained Kumar.

Sculptor Kanayi Kunhiraman honoured with Nanjunda Rao National Award for Art
 

Kengal Hanumanthaiah’s statue at Vidhana Soudha is a great example for Kunhiraman’s detailing. Senior art historians say originally the statue of Kengal Hanumanthaiah had him standing holding a miniature Vidhana Soudha in his hand. It was later replaced with Kunhiraman’s statue which captures Kengal Hanumanthaiah’s temperament and identity.

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 6:33:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/dance-of-the-giants/article22367066.ece

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