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Boat on the Head.
Boat on the Head.

K.S. Radhakrishnan | Sculptor of the mind

K.S. Radhakrishnan showcases his vast oeuvre in his latest exhibition

Did you know that the famous dancing girl of the ancient Indian civilization Mohenjo-Daro is now a graduate from Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan? At least in the world of Delhi-based national award-winning sculptor K.S. Radhakrishnan.

In the sculptor’s vision, she holds a tablet in her left hand, which is stacked with bangles. In her right hand, she carries a saptaparni leaf that is given to students who graduate from Visva-Bharati as part of a ritual.

The “graduate" Mohenjo-Daro dancing girl is a part of Radhakrishnan’s ongoing exhibition, Sculptures, at Art Pilgrim, Gurgaon. The exhibition features the artist’s oeuvre, spanning over 30 years. “This exhibition represents the various stages and series of my works," says Radhakrishnan, 57, who was born in Kottayam, Kerala, and did his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sculpture from Visva-Bharati University, studying under legends like Ramkinkar Baij.

On display are selected works from his previous series like Freehold, where the dancing sculptures appear to defy gravity and glide through the air.

Maiya on the Bend.
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Maiya on the Bend.

The exhibition also includes firefly-like sculptures, which descend or ascend collectively, creating an abstraction to finally form a larger-than-life avatar. Works like Monalisa in a Frame show a taut female figure gesticulating through a golden frame. The bronze figures are elfin, mischievous, airy, acrobatic, and archaic, delicately balancing on one hand or leg.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Radhakrishnan thinks bronze is perfect for his sculpting although, over the years, he has experimented with plaster of Paris, molten bronze and beeswax. He says: “For me bronze works best because it is strong, and brings out the character of my sculptures. Although it takes time, the process also becomes a part of my art form."

However dynamic and diverse the sculptures are, there is a common streak that runs through them—their smile. “You see they are all happy to be able to elevate to a different space which they desire and dream about. And in the process or journey, they acquire this lightness and contentment within. So no matter how precariously they are positioned; they are always smiling, always moving, always evolving," says the artist, who gazes at his creations with the benevolent eye of a father, often patting or stroking them.

Maiya on Musui.
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Maiya on Musui.

It all started in 1970, when Radhakrishnan met an 18-year-old Santhal boy, Musui, asking for alms in Santiniketan, where the sculptor was studying. “What struck me was this unusual peace and smile on his face. So I offered him some money and asked him to sit for me so I could make his portrait. Sometime later, he came with his head shaven. And even when I came to Delhi in 1980, that image stayed on with me and became a permanent fixture in my work and my life. It was as though me and Musui are one," he says. His series Musui And Maiya went on to become his most famous work.

Over the years, Radhakrishnan’s sculptures have also evolved in dynamics and size. “When I started in the 1980s, sculpting was not seen as a mainstream art form . I then travelled to places like Europe to acquire that credibility and be recognized in my country", he says.

Today, Radhakrishnan, who says he would have been a film-maker, if he hadn’t become a sculptor, is hopeful about the future of sculpting in the country. “The Indian art market and business is improving for sculpting and that is encouraging newer sculptors to come in," he says.

Sculptures is on till 9 April, 11am-7pm, at Art Pilgrim, Sushant Lok, 689 A, Gurgaon.

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