Wednesday, Mar 29, 2023

Song Of The Unsung Artists

Song Of The Unsung Artists

Glimpses into the art world, we peek into a sculptor’s workshop in Pondicherry, a fundraiser and an auction

Sculptor Ravichandran at work

For twenty years the two partners have been working with stone. Granite, soap stone, limestone, they take the blocks and with deft hands and shoulder- power shape them so they can become worthy of admiration or even worship.

Tucked away into a little used road that connects Pondicherry to Auroville and its surroundings, the Shri Auro Balan Works, housed in a makeshift shed,  is run by two sculptors with a helper or two to do the basic cutting jobs.

M B Ravichandran and M Nagalingam are unpretentious, simple men, letting their craft speak on their behalf. Not given to the intricacies of negotiating prices and time-lines, they leave that to Ravichandran’s  son, who is nifty with WhatsApp messages and holds a job in Chennai.

Walk through their work space, scattered with all sizes of stone, mostly untreated, and your eye will detect an elephant here, a panel of human figures there, plus some versions of Ganesha, whose body inspires a multitudes of poses and forms.

A benign and very classic Buddha stands tall, and there are other pieces some very decorated, others playful and minimalist that serve as samples of their range of work.

The partners are currently busy with two assignments; one for Wipro in Bangalore, which consists of an order of tall granite pillars decorated at the top with a selection of animals ranging from the ubiquitous cobra to chameleons and lemurs. The other, a large panel for a wedding hall, is a Ganesha in relief, and a perfect example of the ability of the artist to make the hard stone yield to the shape he desires, for the sculpture is a combination of soft flowing folds and hard rocky surfaces, each perfect in the detailing.

They work mostly against orders, as the stone is expensive and working to indulge whimsy is not quite possible.

In nearby Mahabalipuram, 34 kilometres or so away, there are many more such men, skilled with their hands, gifted with the ability to look into the heart of a piece of stone and see the soul within. Many of their creations find buyers , many do not and lie gathering the dust the passing cars throw up. Some of them are hard-nosed businessmen who know the worth of their craft and will set a price to match not their needs, but the purse of the interested client.

But all of them, award winners and others, remain unknown. Their work never carries their name, and the Ganesha or the Buddha or the dancing apsara one takes home acquires the name of its owner, the creator quite forgotten.

How many of us who stop to buy a stone creation, the legacy of hundreds of years of following a family tradition, stop to think of the hours of work that shaped the statue or bauble we are bargaining so hard over? And that if we continue to undercut the craftsman, future generations will seek more gainful employment.

Does Ravi Chandran’s son in Chennai know how to hold a chisel, I wonder. Can he shape a God or a beast? The most likely answer makes me sad.

Laughing with CRY

Future Miss Universe: A painting from the CRY Fundraiser

Forty eminent artists are doing their bit to help needy children. By creating paintings that have children as a theme for a fundraiser titled Happy Childhoods. Organised by CRY India, at the prestigious Tao Art Gallery in Worli, Mumbai, the paintings will go on display on Sept 8, and be sold on a first buyer basis.

Anjolie Ela Menon, Charan Sharma, Seema Kohli, Satish Gupta are among the artists who have interpreted the theme in their own style, creating works that could grace a foyer, a nursery or the living room, as conversation pieces.

Part of the money from the sale goes into CRY’s projects, in their 42 year old endeavour to ensure healthier and more joyous childhoods to children from some of the country’s  most neglected communities.

The exhibits can be viewed and purchased by walk-ins on Sept 8 and 9 and will also be available online till October 7, 2021 through www.the

As artist Sujata Bajaj said in a message to CRY, ‘A childhood filled with joy and love is the most exquisite work of art.’ The artists are using their art to create joy and love. You can join in a create some of it too, and have a painting to show for it!

And an auction to cheer art lovers

M F Husain’s oil on canvas anti war painting, in response to the Bangladesh liberation war of 1971, a commissioned piece from the Pitti family collection, and Bhupen Khakkar’s painted stoneware ceramic , Untitled , 1994, are two of the rare works that will be debuting as part of an auction organised by AstaGuru. The Modern Indian Art Auction  will be online on Sept 8-9. The fifty lots include other rare works by, among others, SH Raza, Akbar Padamsee, FNSouza, Ganesh Pyne and Jamini Roy. Many have come from collections abroad and mark significant periods in the evolution of the artist’s career.

If the news has you reaching for your credit card, you can browse the catalogue and make your choices on Viewing by appointment is possible  between 11.30am to 7 pm,  Aug 23-Sept 9, at the ICIA blg, Rampart Row, next to Rampart House, Kala Ghoda, Mumbai.

(Views expressed in this article are personal and may not necessarily reflect the views of Outlook Magazine.)