CHENNAI: Moulding, shaping, engraving and bringing clay to life through sculptures — that’s M Koilpitchai Prabakar’s passion. The ceramic artist says terracotta is his favourite alternative to ceramic as clay is easily accessible. “I make ceramic sculptures. But, the process is long and since terracotta is more feasible, I work with clay whenever I get time,” he says.
Hailing from Kaluvoor, a small village in Tirunelveli district, he says he wasn’t exposed to art as a child. “My parents weren’t artists; they were farmers. I used to watch people from the neighbouring villages draw and sketch, and that’s how I became interested in art,” he shares.
With illustrations in vernacular magazines being the only art reaching small villages, Prabakar says he didn’t even have access to such magazines. “There were magazines that carried illustrations and artwork by artists, but we didn’t have access to them in our village. My knowledge about art developed only after I came to Chennai 12 years ago,” explains the artist.
An alumnus of Egmore Government College of Fine Arts, he says his art teachers were his biggest support. “Artist Chandru was my biggest inspiration. His work gave me the motivation to do something unique,” he says.
So, how does he create such realistic sculptures? “I study an object for months to bring out its texture and features,” he says. He observed dogs and crocodiles for over a year while doing live paintings. “I used to do live paintings of animals in college. Later, I got involved in live sculpting,” he shares.
A ceramic artist, sculptor and painter, how does he prefer to be known? “I want to be a general physician rather than a specialist,” he laughs. “I want to be known as a good artist. I don’t restrict myself to one dimension, I love exploring,” adds the winner of the Tamil Nadu Nunkalai Kuzhu Award.
With two national awards and several State awards to his credit, Prabakar has been a part of several group and solo shows. Recently, he was a part of a show about green ecosystems, where Korean and Indian artists participated. “Based on the broken food chain, I created around 300 cats with clay,” he says.
Quitting his four-year job as a professor at an architecture college, Prabakar decided to take up sculpting full-time and is now a freelance artist. How challenging does he find it? “It was extremely challenging to leave a job that paid me around Rs 35,000. I love my work, but it isn’t financially stable. My wife has been very supportive and I am working hard to take my art to greater heights,” he shares.
His work often reflects social changes and his thoughts. “I am a modern artist but my tryst with nature and my traditional upbringing can be noticed in my works,” he shares.
With a show in Mumbai in March, Prabakar hopes his art will reach the masses. “We need more people to come forward to appreciate art and artisans,” he adds. Priced from Rs 25,000 onwards, his artwork can be seen at the Lalit Kala Akademy Regional Centre.
Prabakar will conduct a terracotta workshop on February 25, 26 and 27 for people above the age of 11, between 3pm and 6pm at Ilango’s Art Space, Abhiramapuram. For details, call 914442085180.