CHENNAI: Augustine Thilak collected around 11,000 screws and fixed them on a wooden base, one after another, for over a span of six months. The end product was a giant dice — similar to the one that you use in board games — with a skin of screws. The installation was part of ‘One is a crowd’ art exhibition at Alliance Francaise.
“The screws convey the clutter of thoughts that crowd inside one’s head,” says Augustine, running his fingers on the dice. Adjacent to it is another block with a few missing screws, like a chunk that had melted away. “This portrays the stage when one realises the clutter of thoughts within, finds the key, and begins to disperse the screws,” he says. What happens once they disperse? “You become one with nature,” says Augustine, spreading his hands wide.
Augustine, who is also an art therapist, says that today, people are so lost in multiple thoughts and donning a multitude of roles that they find it hard to see their true self. They find it difficult to connect to others, to themselves and to nature. “A person accumulates many locks through his life — a number of conditions and restrictions. There are also situations when a key to a particular problem becomes a lock to another, and vice versa,” he says. Augustine’s artworks are an attempt to portray this confused existence. And for this, he uses screws, keys and locks, besides pastel work, canvas and photography.
His previous exhibition was a prologue to the current one. Titled Language of existence, it had charted a man’s journey to find true freedom. Augustine believes that once a man attains this stage of being one with existence, animals such as deer and rabbits and birds, as shown in his works — hover around him. “Animals and birds can sense when you have a crowd of thoughts, you know?” he says.
Quite different from the rest of his works, two canvas paintings in the collection depict one’s journey to realisation. A man running with a mildly lit torch in his hand, in search of his true self. This painting follows with the next which is a splash of golden light. “This is the stage when the person has dispersed all screws and realised his true self, the power of which is much larger than one ever thought,” he says.