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Sculpting a new art

Claiming to be a schoolmate of President A.P.J.Kalam (Schwartz High School where the First Citizen too apparently had his early basic education), Manickam has grand plans to teach his art to anybody who shows genuine interest.


PAPER FASCINATES all. And in all forms its put to use. Those even remotely connected to creativity use the material for innumerable purposes that mould their imagination. For some it works as a raw material for creating different objects. For many, it is of use even after being discarded. The multipurpose ubiquitous paper is a pleasing thing to possess and hence its judicious use - and not wastage - is always propagated bythe conscientious people.

For Manickam, a retired art teacher of St. Mary's Higher Secondary School in Madurai, paper holds - and always held - an altogether different passion. He has been deftly using paper to create sculptures. His inspiration - the sculptor's work in different temples of the city.

Manickam believes that he is the "only person practising this art in the city." So what name has he given to his unique art form? Quite appropriately - "Paper Sculpture". However up-North and in the Eastern parts of the country, artists have made such innovative attempts which are particularly on show during the twin festival of Dusshera and Durga Puja. Particularly in the States of West Bengal and Bihar, creative minds and hands are known to have made "paper Gods and Goddesses" particularly for the devotees abroad as these can be easily folded and transported without the risk of damage!

However, our man is still different. Not only has he sculpted figures from temple architecture, but his portfolio includes models of vintage cars, animals, women carrying a pot, steam engines, traditional kuttuvilakku and much more.

Recalls Manickam, how he made his first attempt at the paper work to create a model of an engine when challenged by some of his eager and amused students. "I flopped in my maiden endeavour. But I was not bogged down by failure. Rather, I took to the work more vigorously by sitting at the railway station and watching the working of pistons and wheels of the engine. This helped me in crafting a splendid model."

The first bout of success led him on to a variety of other objects. "Once I conceive the idea, I draw a sketch and then embark on the job of doing it with paper. I work at leisure giving enough time to each project," he says.


To cite a few examples, small models like sparrow take about a week while miniature models of engines take as many as 30 days. But, the art teacher finds sculpting with paper most cumbersome as it takes not less than three months to complete one piece. The detailed perfection of decorative ornaments eat a major share of time.

To create these amazingly wonderful works, all that Manickam needs is a few sheets of paste-on board and adhesives. And he believes in simple plain work and refrains from making his creations glossy with different-hued coats. "If I coat with colours or decorate with ornamental work, then my creativity and the paper effect will be outplayed"— he feels.

He reveals a secret up his sleeve. That his paper vehicles can even move at a gentle pace. Though Manickam's magic hands have created several appealing figures, he is far from being satisfied with the level of his work. "I have a long way to go. My next aim is to create figures of leading personalities. The first leader I am trying is Swami Vivekananda. He is my guide. I have a lot of respect for him and his words are an inspiration to me," he shares his desire humbly.

Claiming to be a schoolmate of President A.P.J.Kalam (Schwartz High School where the First Citizen too apparently had his early basic education), Manickam has grand plans to teach his art to anybody who shows genuine interest. He does not want the art to vanish with him. He also wishes to sell his creative works and earn a living from it. But he is unable to decide a price for his effort and passion. "When I am ready with my items for sale, I will leave it to the decision of the art connoisseurs of the city".

"Like the famous Tanjore painting, I want to make paper art an exclusive of Madurai and want it to be known as Madurai Paper Sculpture", he parts earnestly.

M.R.ARAVINDAN

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