After Madame Tussauds Wax Museum became a genre du jour with replicas of the museum in many parts of the world, it took self-taught artist, photographer and producer A P Sreethar nudge his creativity to create figures of prominent personalities using silicone.
These figures were exhibited in his Live Art Museum in Chennai—the first-of-its-kind in the world—in April this year.
The artist says, “I always had this urge towards creative art and the need to deviate from the off beaten path. I wanted to be creative in a different way.”
Sreethar’s first visit to Madame Tussauds in Bangkok in 2013 fuelled the desire in him to emulate the works exhibited there. But he realised that wax as a medium was not conducive to our tropical climate and he thought of using silicone instead. “My friend Ravi, a sculptor based in Vizag, helped me. We mould a clay figure for reference, then we make an iron skeleton over it, which is then covered with fibre made partly of wool and silk. The fibre is again covered with silicone, after which we work on colouring, art work, hair attachments, costumes and accessories,” says the 49-year-old, whose paintings were exhibited at international fairs in Singapore and Sydney.
Glass moulds are used to make eyes, and enamel to colour them.
Standing tall in the museum, suited and booted with his glares on, is Amitabh Bachchan. Opposite to him is a fierce Arnold Schwarzenegger in a leather outfit brandishing a shotgun, complete with shells in his bandolier.
Cricketer M S Dhoni swinging his bat to strike the ball is so realistic that one can almost hear the swish. Mother Teresa, Jackie Chan, Charlie Chaplin and Sai Baba are among the iconic celebrities housed here, but attention-riveting is Da Vinci’s famed Mona Lisa sitting pretty on a rock with her enigmatic smile intact.
In July, a silicone figure of erstwhile late President APJ Abdul Kalam was displayed in the Abdul Kalam Memorial in Rameshwaram. “The figure’s special feature is that it shows Kalam in a sitting position playing the veena,” says Sreethar, who got his first recognition at the age of 16 when he exhibited a painting at the USSR’s Gorbachev Festival at Soviet Cultural House in Chennai in 1985.
The painting of two trees tied together as a symbol of Indo-USSR relations deeply impressed then Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev. “There was no looking back after that,” Sreethar says.
Money has never been a problem. The making of a silicone model costs Rs 5-7 lakh, and the rapidity with which they paintings sell, he is able to fund the cost.
He confesses to his passion for film production which has transcended into many corporate films, ads and documentaries. He says, “The quest for innovation is endless. My best is yet to come.” From 2000 to 2005, he took several trips to Sydney to learn digital art, used in film production.
To commemorate Sai Baba’s centenary, he is sculpting 10 figures of the saint.