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Creativity in clay

Clay faces that reflect rustic beauty and earthy charm are Rajagopal's forte


THE VERY first time you put your fingers together to mould slippery clay into some cohesive shape, you'll realise you are creating a mess. The clay will either crumble or turn out into something else altogether. You are left wondering how people manage to mould clay and lend it a definite shape and expression as well.

Looking at the miniature clay faces crafted V. Rajagopal, an art teacher at the Government High School, Devarayapuram, you know he has an eye for art and a feel for contours.

Students of his school and other rural schools nearby also do this work as part of their curriculum.

He moulds clay, the earliest and most versatile medium of creativity, into exciting and near-poetic faces with differing tones, lines and textures. His faces are not mere decorative pieces and move beyond the mundane.

As for the raw material, he says: "It doesn't cost you anything. My students and I collected the wet mud from Devarayapuram and Narasipuram areas, where it is available in plenty."

They mould it using simple methods - using the hand to lend shape, the thumb to shape the eyes and nose and fingers for the nostrils. "Once you get the head right, you can improvise," he adds. Other tools used to lend expressions to his `faces' are geometric scales (to define shape), hair comb (to define hair) and the cover of a Reynolds pen (for the eyeballs).

As he works deftly using his fingers, you watch in awe as a ball of clay takes on a life of its own. The miniature Ganeshas are an example of his dexterity.


Rajagopal does not paint his faces because "they look good in their original colour." So, all of them look earthy. Most of the faces depict rustic beauty. "Abstract forms always attract attention. An artist achieves a sense of fulfilment when he makes an abstract piece look real. But, to attract attention he tilts a straight head 30 degrees," he adds.

Among his works, the face of a villager is particularly arresting. Beautifully conceived and finished well, it stands out for its detail.

Rajagopal's `faces' range in height from one inch to three inches. The ingenious shapes ensure that each one revels in its individuality. Contact the artist on (0422) 2671025.

K. JESHI

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