Sculptor KS Radhakrishnan says all through the lockdowns, he was busy working on his new collection and in curating two exhibitions

Sculptor KS Radhakrishnan on the significance of ‘Maiya, the writer’ installation in his oeuvre

July 20, 2022 02:36 pm | Updated July 21, 2022 04:56 pm IST

Sculptor KS Radhakrishnan with ‘Maiya, the writer’ at CMS College, Kottayam

Sculptor KS Radhakrishnan with ‘Maiya, the writer’ at CMS College, Kottayam | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

On the campus of CMS College in Kottayam, sculptor KS Radhakrishnan’s Maiya is a writer. Her sinuous, minimalistic frame is bent over a book. A hand on a book and a pen keep her riveted to the 10-feet granite pillar she rests on; the act of writing keeps the inverted Maiya grounded while her imagination, evident in her posture, leaves her unfettered. The bronze sculpture is a tribute to his hometown, Kottayam, famous for its romance with letters and learning, printing and publishing.

“’Maiya, the writer’, symbolises empowerment, the thinking woman, the woman with a will and mind of her own. I wanted the writer to be placed at a height to give the woman and writer an elevated position,” says Radhakrishnan. He is surprised that even now many men in Kerala find it difficult to interact with a woman with an independent mind. “It is unfortunate. Perhaps, if we position a woman in a place of learning, like in the case of Maiya, it might change the way a man perceives a woman,” he hopes.

The sculptor was passing through Thiruvananthapuram after the inauguration of his work in CMS College.

Radhakrishnan, a student of Ram Kinkar Biaj in Santiniketan has emulated his mentor and integrated elements of Santhal art into his oeuvre. Maiya and Musui, a woman and man, are his muse. They are iconic figures in his sculptures, big and small, as he uses the human motifs in his artistic works to convey his impressions. Maiya and Musui look the same but for their gender; together they eloquently express in bronze Radhakrishnan’s takes on gender, society, history, nostalgia and loss. 

This is his third sculpture in Kerala. The first was at Mananchira in Kozhikode. The second was installed at the Municipal Park in Kottayam just before the lockdown in 2020. “I was requested to make a sculpture for Kottayam. It was to be placed in any location of my liking. I went around a few places in Kottayam and chose the park as the ideal spot for the installation. I want my creations to be with the people and for people to be with the works. For that to happen, the works have to be installed in a place that people frequent,” he explains. Three bronze figures, stark and acrobatic, rest on granite pillars of 12- 15- and 18 feet respectively. Radhakrishan calls them ‘Bahurupi’.

“The one in the middle has kept his feet on his head and he is the picture of bliss. I want movement in my figures. That is when they move their viewers as well. The one in the middle indicates sthithi (stillness) while the other two depict gathi (movement). There is liminality in us and that is why I called them Bahurupi liminal figures,” he elaborates.

Six months ago, when the Principal of CMS College Varghese C Joshua wondered if Radhakrishnan would make a piece for the college, he happily agreed. “The leafy campus of the college has more than 500 species of trees and a wooded area of six acres. Such a green haven in the middle of the city is unique. I thought it would be a lovely home for Maiya, the writer,” says the artist with a big smile.

Sculptor KS Radhakrishnan and his works in bronze in the Municipal Park in Kottayam

Sculptor KS Radhakrishnan and his works in bronze in the Municipal Park in Kottayam | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Explaining why he works only in bronze, Radhakrishnan says that only that gives him the freedom to make the airborne, minimalistic figures that he creates. “I can’t make that in stone. There is a lightness of being in my works and I don’t think I can do it in any other medium. Bronze is a strong, yet flexible medium to work in. Moreover, since I begin all my creations in mud and follow the lost wax method, my piece retains the ruggedness and texture of the mud. As a sculptor, I come from a school where the initial modelling is done in clay.”

During his recent visit to Kottayam in July for the installation of the writer, Radhakrishnan was pleased to see the municipal park filled with families. “That is the way a sculpture should be positioned. What is the use of putting up busts and statues in traffic islands that we only see when we are passing by in a vehicle? There is no time to appreciate it or relate to it,” he asserts.

Sculptor KS Radhakrishnan and his bust of former President APJ Abdul Kalam

Sculptor KS Radhakrishnan and his bust of former President APJ Abdul Kalam | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Radhakrishan points out that installing busts and statues should have a context instead of randomly locating them at any place. He points to the practice of making busts of the Presidents of India, which are kept in Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi. These busts are made when a President is in office and he/she does several sittings for the chosen artiste.

“I was invited to do a bust of President KR Narayanan. Thanks to that opportunity, I was able to get to know from close quarters a remarkable scholar and a fine human. It was the same with President APJ Abdul Kalam. I considered it an honour to make a bust of that great man,” he explains.

Sculptor KS Radhakrishnan with former President APJ Abdul Kalam

Sculptor KS Radhakrishnan with former President APJ Abdul Kalam | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

During the lockdowns, Radhakrishnan chose to spent his time in Santiniketan, working on a new show, ‘A Crowd dispersed’ , that will be inaugurated at Emami Art, Kolkata in January 2023.

Simultaneously, he was working on the centenary exhibition on Somnath Hore (‘Somnath Hore: A centenary exhibition’), which explores the myriad works of the late artist, and on a centenary tribute to Satyajit Ray (‘Iti Satyajit Da’), both in Kolkata.

“At the Emami Art inside Kolkata Centre for Creativity, The Satyajit Ray Centenary Show, which I curated, had photographs of Ray that were clicked by several photographers, some unpublished too, original posters of his films and copies of 52 letters that Ray had written to a family friend and admirer. Although I was nervous about holding an exhibition in Kolkata, in the midst of Ray bhakhts, the exhibition and a book on Ray was very well received,” he says.

Sculptor K S Radhakrishnan poses with his work, on the first day of India Art Fair at NSIC in New Delhi

Sculptor K S Radhakrishnan poses with his work, on the first day of India Art Fair at NSIC in New Delhi | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Radhakrishnan is also closely involved with the working of Arthshila Foundation, a private art centre on the premises of Santiniketan. He says that for two years now, along with his work, he has also been documenting the works of Hore and compiled a 460-page volume on the late artist. “We cannot wait for the university to bring about initiatives. His relevance must be conveyed to students and they must understand his works. Arthshila is a significant beginning,” he believes. The artiste says it will be a cultural centre with different activities planned every month and curated by veterans in different artistic fields.

All praise for the Kochi Biennale and Lokame Tharavadu exhibitions, he says those exhibitions have given a chance for viewers to understand the work by leading artists in India. “Otherwise, people in Kerala would have been conditioned to watching only the works of artists here. Unfortunately, some artists in Kerala are not interested in looking beyond the periphery and they are not keen on creating a stage that is conducive for artistes from outside the State to show in Kerala. “

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