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A display of fine artistry

PUSHPA CHARIPUSHPA CHARI

SOME OUTSTANDING handicrafts from South India are on display at an exhibition of craft entries for the Mahatma Gandhi Birth Centenary Awards Competition, instituted by the Victoria Technical Institute in 1969.

Attracting works of 500 artists and craftspersons from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Pondicherry, the crafts include Swamimalai bronzes, rosewood carving and inlay work, sandalwood carving, leather puppetry craft, Kalamkari, convent embroidery, mix chalk sculptures and rice carving. The paintings, over 350, in watercolour, oils and other mediums represent enthusiasm and burgeoning talent.

The most eye catching among the entries are in the bronze, sandalwood carving and rosewood carving and inlay sections. A beautifully sculpted Krishna battling Kalia is as riveting as a rose wood elephant with intricate inlay work and brass fixings.

A carved jhoola and an imaginative mandap whose doors are decorated with exquisitely inlaid Saraswati and Lakshmi too compel attention.

The sandalwood pieces are masterly, featuring Venugopal and a seated Radha Krishna composition, both executed in the Hoysala style.

The micro miniature carving in sandalwood too displays craftsmanship of a high order, combining dexterity and a finely nuanced sense of artistry. Each fold of Ganesha's drapery is painstakingly sculpted and the miniature Ravaneshwar playing the veena is outstanding.

The rice carvings, which have to be viewed through a microscope, are intricate and fine detailing has gone into it.

Other compelling pieces on display are leather puppets, wall hangings and a mellow Kalamkari piece. However, many other craft forms of South India such as Bidri work, silver filigree and tribal embroidery have not been represented. While the presence of innovative crafts such as chalk and driftwood sculpture is to be lauded, one wishes there were more entries in terracotta and stone sculpture.

The exhibition closes today. The award winning entries will again be displayed at VTI, 765 Anna Salai at a later date.

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