Saturday, February 24, 2018

A Young Genius Sculptor: Abhimanyu Subhash

(sculptor Abhimanyu Subhash)

You should know this artist. His name is Abhimanyu Subhash. He is all six years old and is a first standard student in Thrissur, Kerala. Today his first solo exhibition starts with around fifty small scale sculptures at the Lalithakala Akademi gallery in Thrissur. Generally the word genius comes with a lot of baggage and the word child prodigy is somewhat wayward. If the word is prolific, then it is more applicable to those artists who spontaneously create works of art from anything and everything. Perhaps, Abhimanyu is all these three qualifications rolled into one- a genius who is also a child prodigy with a prolific approach to anything creative.

(work by Abhimanyu Subhash)

Abhimanyu has it in his genes. I do not intend to say that only those who have it in the genes can flaunt it in the works. Some artists bloom late but bloom well. That also does not mean that the early bloomers are just temporary phenomena. Abhimanyu has a long way to go to be recognized as one of the masters in Indian sculpture but he has got it in him, as one of the contemporary artists after seeing his works puts it, “it all depends on how he could sustain the pressures of the world around him.” Genius artists have this problem. The biggest possible hindrances for them are posed by the world around them. They are visionaries in a blind world or a world which has one eye. The ability of someone to create what others could not see or make are natural sufferers. But as you know after every blue period, there is a pink period, then after that sky is the limit for the artist.

(work by Abhimanyu Subhash)

This child artist, Abhimanyu, interestingly got the immediate surroundings quite inspiring, conducive and accommodative. His father, Subhash Viswanath is an academically trained sculptor and Subhash’ father is a traditional icon maker (who makes devotional sculptures and votive figures in bronze). They have a studio at their home and while the children of his age plays with plastic toys and video games, Abhimanyu focuses on what is available around him; a lot of creative spirit, concentration and yes, the right materials. This young artist plays with clay and shapes up forms that astonish even an established sculptor. When he picks up wax, they all turn into beings that got extinct millions of years back. Yes, Abhimanyu must have seen them in picture books, television and animation movies, but now they have come out of the boxes and have become his creative mates. When Abhimanyu touches wax, from the annals of primitive life and imaginations, many lived creatures come out and manifest.

(Work by Abhimanyu Subhash)

A child’s realism is the artist’s realism because it is the distortion that the children achieve in their art these artists want to emulate. Why is the realism in children’s art so alluring for the grown up artists? The realism in/of a child is that of the realism/naturalism perceived through the whole being; not just through eye. Children understand the world through their whole being; it is not just the intellectual comprehension. There is always the logic of perception which is not corresponding to the logic of scientific approach. Hence, an oval shape with four sticks jutting out of it could represent a child’s father or mother with or without a suggestion of a moustache. Children perhaps understand that they create a world through a different kind of visual interpretation. Though it is not necessary that the distortion that the children’s art carries in it is always covetable for a senior artist, even Picasso would have loved to undo his academic perfection at the altar of the children’s art. And he did sacrifice it too.

(work by Abhimanyu Subhash)

Abhimanyu is naturally gifted with this realism/naturalism. And looking closely at his works one could understand that there are two different kinds of world that this artist wants to capture in his miniature scale works (everything is less than six inches): the world of animals and fantastic being and the world of the human beings around him. The world of animals is fascinating for any child and I believe most of the children believe that they are some animals. But in Abhimanyu’s case, he does not envision himself as an animal but imagines a world of animals and birds where he shares a great rapport with them. So we have dolphins, sea lions, seals, horses, bullocks, buffaloes and so on inhabiting in his creative world. Abhimanyu has not seen them so closely; but whatever he has seen, I am sure he has seen with some inner eye. That’s why we see the horses in a bird’s eye perspective and the movement and articulation of each of their muscles are just perfect with the mastery of modelling. We see the bullocks moving with some kind of weariness. We see dolphins galloping, seals resting and elephants ambling.

(work by Abhimanyu Subhash)

This child artist is stickler for perfection and he does not want to take any lesson from his elders. Nor does he want to be directed in selecting the subject matter for his sculptures. Like Ram Kinkar Baij who had been motivated by the simple things from the surroundings and was also so reckless about his creative output, Abhimanyu too takes a lot of pleasure from the little things in his surroundings. He is not care to keep them intact despite his insistence on perfection. It is the job of his father to collect and store them. Abhimanyu’s observation goes to what many senior artists would tend to overlook. On an elephant, we see two people leaning to one side. While the elephant is straight, the viewer may wonder why the people are shaky on its back. The artist nonchalantly answers that it happens when the elephant passes through an arched door into the temple. “The people have to move sideways or bend to avoid collision with the top edge of the door.” Abhimanyu, even at this tender age has seen the temple festivals the way an observant artist would do. The expressionism of this artist is so interesting to look at. A regular visitor to the studio was one made into a sculpture (a portrait sculpture) by Abhimanyu. In the sculpture you don’t see that person, but you don’t see anything else that the person does not have. Hence, we have Abhimanyu Subhash, a new sculptor in the art scene. What he needs today is encouragement, not training. And I am sure given that he would be a master artist of the future. I wish him all the best.