Friends call him Kanka Swami (Sage Kanka), Kanka ji and Philosopher Kanka. He has a way with the worlds and words. The saying ‘one for all, all for one’ is apt to describe Sukesan Kanka. In an art camp he is everywhere to help everyone and in turn everyone works with him. A graduate in painting from Thrissur Fine Arts College, Sukesan Kanka is an interesting artist who could be completely selfless with nature. Here he is.
(Rastaman Live Up- Sukesan Kanka)
At Luhari Village Sukesan comes for the Sandarbh Nature Art Workshop. An avid painter and an intricate sculptor who takes pride to have worked in goldsmiths’ workshops at the tender age of nine, Sukesan finds art even in the smallest of things. If you promise me to keep your eyes in control I will introduce the first work that he did in Sandarbh. Look at this…
(Look at the dangling ornament in her ear)
Don’t delve too much into the beauty of the girl. She is Neha Naryanan, an art student from Delhi College of Art who came to volunteer in Sandarbh. She wears the first work done by Sukesan. He plucked out two leaves from a plant and put it into Neha’s ear rings. And isn’t it a pair of covetable ear ornaments? Sukesan’s experience as an ornament maker worked here very well. And of course, he has an eye for the details.
(Neha Narayanan modelling with Sukesan's ear rings)
Sukesan twists language to give new meanings to what he says. That’s why even in a ‘spiritual high’ Paribartana says, ‘I wouldn’t quote Derrida. But I would quote Kanka’. For Sukesan, Suprabhatam (Good Morning) is Super- Bhatam (Great Morning). As he hops around the Luhari complex, Sukesan thinks about the nature around him. He loves it and he knows that this nature is going to die at the hands of the uncouth human beings.
So Sukesan starts his work. Like a romantic poet who wrote the requiem for earth, Sukesan makes a grave for nature. He collects clay and sand, mixes them and builds a mound, near the dining at Luhari. The more he works, the more he gets absorbed into it.
(Sukesan Kanka at work)
Sukesan remembers those graves that he has seen back in Kerala. In Kerala, people plant a tulsi (Holy Basil/Ocimum Sanctum) on the graves as an offering to nature. Also the plant symbolizes the dead person and those who live cares for this plant as if it were the soul of the dead beloved sprouting out from the earth. Sukesan remembers all these in his work.
And this grave is for the nature. He creates certain abstract forms on it, not only as an embellishment to the elongated rectangular structure but also as the evocation of the traditional worshipping structures. These are just hints for making the viewer aware of the gravity of the issue. And he inscribes on it ‘Nature Worried Buried’.
‘Nature Worried Buried’. You may read a lot into it. Sukesan smears a paste made out of cow dung and mud on the grave. This is how the villagers keep their floor and walls plastered and clean. Sukesan remembers all those dying practices and he calls them back to his work. He proclaims, ‘We are Nature’ in another inscription.
(Nature We Are)
At night, a storm passes through the Luhari village. Along with many other works, Sukesan’s Nature Worried Buried also is blown astray. But Sukesan builds it back, like a fruit gatherer who picks back all those spilled berries in a meadow.
(Sukesan Kanka with Worried Buried)
In the expansive lawn of Luhari forest resort, where the Sandarbhians stay for the duration of the workshop, Sukesan finds another form. He carves out huge monkey form in the middle of the lawn. He carefully removes the grass bed in the shape of a crouching monkey. Sukesan reminds of our origins and he warns us their extinction and ours too. Then he smears the form with cow dung paste. Here it is for you.
(the Monkey by Sukesan)
Sukesan’s works are subtle. He brings the grass from the lawn on a table and makes a makeshift landscape on it. He invites everyone to sit around it. For him the grass table is an invitation to the last supper. This is the death of nature. And like cannibals the human beings eat the dead body of it.
(The Grass Table)
But as I mentioned before, Sukesan does not make any loud proclamations on it. None feels that they do the offensive act of cannibalizing the earth. But aesthetically Sukesan hints at the possibility.
(Vaibhav Sharma and Sukesan Kanka at the Grass Table)
Sukesan is an amazing artist to work with. His paintings are a delight to the viewer’s eyes. To give a taste of his drawings, I present this work before you.
(Gramophone- A drawing by Sukesan Kanka)
Let’s wish him all the best for his onward journey as an artist.