Carving a niche
The wooden figures sculpted by Riyas Kunnamangalam speak a lot - of the artist’s impeccable skill, aesthetics, perseverance and his perpetual quest to bring to the fore the ‘artist’ in nature.
The figurines, an impressive collection of 12-odd statuettes chiseled out from decades-old roots of teak, exhibited at Durbar Hall Art Gallery are the result of an ‘exhaustive but very fulfilling two years of passion and dedication. Kozhikode-based artist Riyas Kunnamangalam’s ‘God’s Own Country’ delves into the intricacies of wood work.
For someone who has had no tryst with formal education - for he stopped schooling before Class 10,- Riyas’ work is a reflection of our society, precisely its darker side. “My mode of working is through observing and identifying issues. Art for me is a message to society. I like to highlight its evil side,” says Riyas Kunnamangalam.
Each piece throbs with the life of various issues that bind us breathless, be it the sculpture of an endosulphan victim clasping a cashew fruit tightly in his little arms, or an old woman held ‘prisoner’ in her own home, with little freedom to talk about or the fanaticism that looms large over our heads in our society. The wooden wonders are a mirror to the grim realities of life. Other notable pieces touches upon issues such as ill-treatment of elephants, abuse of technology and the perils awaiting our little children. The carving of Yasoda with Lord Krishna is a symbol of unconditional motherly affection.
All the exhibits, except one, are carved out from teak roots.
According to Riyas, each work is a result of hard work and effort, sometimes tedious and harsh. “Identifying the root for the work is in itself cumbersome. I spent years and months wandering around estates and woods in search of the right raw material. I dug up places where I presumed the presence of a root and most often ended up in disappointment. Moreover, working on the roots is equally tough. I spent almost two years doing nothing but sculpting to create these 12 pieces,” says Riyas.
He adds that once he chances upon a perfect piece of wood, he sits on it for days to chisel out the hidden art in it. “Every piece has an image in it. As an artist, my task is to bring it to fore the hidden form by chiseling out the unwanted edges. I never create sculptures by adding on pieces. The only extra effort is polishing the wood to give it a glow,” says the artist.
Riyas says he already feels that his exhibition is a success. “My exhibits are not for sale. Right now, I am not much into the monetary side of the art. The artist in me is satisfied when people see my work,” he says and adds that though he was offered a handsome amount for one work, he declined it. “For me, each work exhibited here is a continuation of the other. It is like the links in a chain, if one is missing the connection will be lost,” Riyas says.
The exhibition will wind up on October 15