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Myriad faces

Chennai-based sculptor Shyam Kumar's works in bronze, stone and terracotta are on show at Studio Palazzo


TO CHENNAI sculptor Shyam Kumar, frogs symbolise the rain forest. The former student of the College of Arts and Crafts has made some gigantic frogs in terracotta for his current exhibition at the Studio Palazzo Art Gallery. They are sculpted in bronze too and stare at the viewer with prominent eyes.

Though Shyam has sculpted works in bronze, stone and terracotta, his favourite medium is terracotta. He feels that sculpting in terracotta is as important to a sculptor as drawing is to a painter. The show displays masks of varied sizes. Though the eyes are left as holes, the other facial features lend them character. One's relationship with people varies and one wears different masks when moving with them, rarely revealing one's true self. It is this idea that this self-effacing sculptor portrays through his masks. By intentionally heating the clay at a higher temperature, a lighter colour has been achieved in the final product; some of the creations have been painted a dark brick red.

The bronzes are somewhat small and are allowed to retain their mild metal tone instead of polishing them. Many resemble buildings but slowly metamorphose into human faces. Thus the name for the show "That Hut". In these too, the eyes are just holes. But other details and textures add to the expressive and emotional elements.

Shyam uses lines to advantage in both sculpture and drawing; in his sculptures, the lines take the form of thin strips arranged carefully to form hair, beard, etc. The frontality of the sculptures is reminiscent of his teacher at the College, late P.V. Janakiram.


Buildings have been of great interest to this artist. Not only in the bronzes, but also in the ink drawings, Shyam depicts buildings with very fine lines, indicating each brick; at times, these buildings appear a little askew and also evoke a sense of mystery.

Another matter of interest to Shyam is meditation, which reflects in his concentration at work and he claims to have felt the Kundalini rising up to his Agna Chakra in the forehead. He feels that most of the artists would have experienced it, perhaps without even realising it. This experience takes the form of a huge stone sculpture at the foot of the staircase of the gallery — a bird-like face with a long bushy beard, eyes closed in meditation. At the back also the hair is carved. On top of the head are arranged lotus petals suggesting the `Sahasrara Chakra'. Sculpted entirely with a grinding machine, exemplary textural variations have been obtained.

A similar meditative mood is shown in the mixed media sculpture in stone and copper. While the copper body is suggestive of armour, the face of the warrior is depicted with closed eyes and the symbol of a star on the forehead.

The exhibition is on till October 29, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., including Sundays.

LAKSHMI VENKATRAMAN

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