Friday, November 13, 2009

Liminal Figures: Portrait of KSR as an Artist and Man



Some men are born to become artists. Some are born to become good human beings. Rare are those become good artists and good human beings.

I have been lucky to find such rare ones in my forty years of life.

Some men are born with a fatherly aura around them. I should have said ‘big brotherly aura’. But after Orwell ‘big brother’ has a different connotation.

A father figure, who never judges you, could play a great role in your life, especially if you are person who has lost the father at a very vulnerable age.

When I met K.S.Radhakrishnan, he might be 37 years old. And now I know how a man feels like at the age of 37.

If I am talking about all those emotional churnings and confusions, I never felt a bit of those vibes from him. Calm, well poised, full of humor and captivating energy, Radhakrishnan was young and old at the same time.

Famous photographer, Prabudha Dasgupta has been Radha’s favorite photographer anytime. Dasgupta had taken several portraits of Radha for his catalogues. In all those you see a Radhakrishnan who looks like a doyen, many years elder to his actual age.

In one of the catalogues published by Art Alive Gallery, New Delhi, we see a photograph of Radhakrishnan, seen through the limbs of his sculptures, clad in a heavy shawl.

Like his sculptural protagonist, Musui, Radhakrishnan hosts a ‘character’ in his physical appearance. The character is that of an emblematic sculptor; a sculptor who is not physically frail, but somewhat aged with existential angst and blessed with visions of hell and heaven.

Heavy tomes in his studio show the pictures of Rodin and Giocometti at work. They are emblematic sculptors of all times. Radha’s personality is that. He likes to be like that. He works in bronze.

In the abundance of materials, Radha is not a fool. He knows his life’s mission.

That’s why when I was going through the worst moments in my life, thinking about leaving everything behind to start a different life elsewhere, Radha said, “Realize your life’s mission. Dig the same place till you find water.”

There is a sufi in Radha’s works. There is a wise fool in his figurative sculptures. There is a saint and a devil. And they are Radha’s incarnations. Only the wise fool in Radha could speak about digging the same place.

It could be as absurd as the works of Sisyphus or Naranathu Bhranthan. But there is a deeper meaning to that toiling. Dig, dig, dig.

Today, I drink from the same well that I dug. Each time I quench my thirst I remember Radha’s words.

First time Radha came to meet me in his white Ambassdor car. That was almost sixteen years back. Now that car lies rusted near his studio in Chattarpur, South Delhi. Radha owns several expensive cars now.

Before Radha bought an apartment in Delhi, he built a studio first in Kirkhee village and then in Chattarpur. As a young post-graduate from Santiniketan, he knew the necessity of a studio. He came to Delhi from Santiniketan and got the Lalit Kala Akademy scholarship. He taught in a school for a while and left it altogether to work in a garage offered to him by a foreign patron who held a diplomatic office in Delhi.

When Radha earned money from his works, he invested all that into the making of a studio.

This studio had been a place for all of us. Most of the successful contemporary artists of these days had spent sometime in Radha’s studio. Old Monk rum, barbequed chicken and vegetables, music from a stereo, rented out mattresses- the studio used to host a lot of parties during the winter days.

Today, with most of the artists having their own studios and homes in Delhi, they don’t get time to travel to Chattarpur. But the doors of this studio still remain open to all whoever wants to work in clay and bronze. Radha’s efficient team helps whoever wants technical help- of course for NO FEE.

Radha bought his ‘first computer’ for me. We together experimented with internet. Today Radha is a gadget freak. You name any latest computer technology, he has it and he knows how to operate it.

Born in a joint family in Kerala, Radha spent his formative years in Kottayam district. As a young boy, without no moustache and beard, Radha stepped out of the train at Santiniketan station. From the same compartment came out was another boy from Kollam district in Kerala.

They spoke to each other for the first time. The other boy was R.Sivakumar. Now he is one of the most revered art historians in India. Currently he heads the Kalabhavan in Santiniketan.

Radha’s friendship with Sivakumar is legendary. They share their works regularly. Whenever Radha has a show, Sivakumar finds time to write the essay. In 2004, Radha’s first monograph written by R.Sivakumar was published. I was in the editorial team throughout and I contributed towards the detailing of works, which constitute second half of the book.

Today, Rahda is having his solo at LKA Galleries in Delhi. This show titled ‘Liminal Figures Liminal Space’ had already been showed in Birla Akademy, Kolkata, 2008. With a few changes, Radha presents these works again for the Delhi audience. This show would travel to Baroda, Mumbai and Kerala in the coming months.

1 comment:

Anubhav said...

Hi Johny

Your respect and fondness for KS Radhakrishnan has come-up in our talks so many times.

I really enjoyed reading this piece, as it really shows your special relationship with him.

Best,
Anubhav