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Untamed energy


THE SURFACES of Shilpi Rajan's figures are rough, broken and tortuous. The impulse is to run one's fingers over the planes to get a feel of their rugged coarseness. But Rajan's demeanour is sharp and no-nonsensical; there's a reverence with which he treats his creations and no one can violate that. For someone who strayed into the business of carving out shapes from the ubiquitous winding roots of stately trees he takes his work, nay his life seriously.


"The outer beauty is not important at all. It is one's behaviour that matters," he says determinedly and instils a similar solemnity of thought to his figures. There's a narrative that runs along his `Families' in wood that are huddled together, sometimes stacked one on top of the other to create a spatial environment that is composite in its intensity.


To the automobile mechanic-turned-sculptor, textures and the tactile value are important. His ways of shaping are more or less dictated by the character of his material, which is largely the errant piece of wood he finds around hometown Thrissur. His higher sensibilities can identify with the gnarled, twisted roots that convey the same mood, one of brooding introspection. The latent images in the medium call forth and the artist gets down to tracking it. By chiselling them out Rajan is in fact coming to terms with his own, tangled emotions. What is exciting about this exhibition is the primitive, untamed energy that pervades the environs. There is nothing even remotely civilized or calm about these works. The angular faces with their thick lips and deep set eyes stare and size up the viewer, creating an immediate dialogue between the two. Due to his proclivity to the basic and natural Rajan is drawn to African art. He is also inspired by folk and tribal traditions that tell stories of cultures and lifestyles and carry a raw look. Even as wood is his dominating option, he also works in laterite, granite iron, bamboo, clay, cement and sometimes with waste materials like old newspapers. Rajan has had no schooling in sculpture and has in fact spent a large part of his time on the football field.Visitors to the exhibition at Durbar Hall couldn't walk out without a word with the artist; they had to meet the mind behind these works The exhibition closed on November 29.

SUNANDA KHANNA

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