Small is beautiful. So is goldsmith and miniature artist Ganesh Subramaniam's world. Most of his artworks are difficult to see with the naked eye. And therein lies their charm. Carved with unsurpassed detailing, these mustard seed-sized sculptures can be viewed only with a 12x lens. Popularly known as the nano artist of Kerala, this 45-year-old has completed around 50 miniature works. His latest piece, Escape from Covid, focuses on social awareness.
Completed in 20 days, it portrays a man equipped with sanitisers, facemask and a medicine box breaking the chain of coronavirus presented in the background. The finished sculpture sits on top of a needle. According to the artist, the chain—which is made of gold—is thinner than a strand of hair.
"I wanted to convey the message that it is possible to stay safe from the virus by taking necessary precautions," he says. Apart from creating nano figurines of Hindu gods and goddesses, he has also made minute sculptures of Kathakali performers and historical figures.
What started as a hobby in 2005 with a 30mg sculpture of a boatman with his boat, soon turned into a passion for this jeweller. Though he has sculpted replicas of historical monuments such as the Taj Mahal and figures of Hindu deities, the piece closest to his heart is the Anantha Vijayam, an engraved ring with a 3mm-tall figure of Lord Vishnu.
Made in 2009 for Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma, the titular Maharaja of Travancore, it remains one of his most prized creations. "As soon as one presses a button on the ring, a lens pops up through which the idol of Lord Vishnu can be viewed," adds Ganesh.
The news of the ring reached Malayalam actor Mohanlal who requested Ganesh to make a similar one for him in 2010. "Mohanlal saw the ring and asked for a Lord Shiva on his," he says. Following Mohanlal, quite a few collectors have commissioned the ring. Presently different versions of the ring are owned by around 12 people worldwide.
While the Anantha Vijayam is his favourite and has achieved much acclaim, what really challenged him was designing a miniature version of a functional code lock. The work holds the world record for being the smallest functioning gold chain code lock. "It has a three-digit combination like normal locks. I could finish it only on my second attempt as a slight variation in alignment could cause the lock to malfunction," he says.
Ganesh dreams of some day setting up a museum of the smallest sculptures in the world. He has been conferred a doctorate from the International Tamil University, US, and is now thinking of ways to pass on his knowledge to the next generation. Ganesh has held solo shows in cities such as Hyderabad, Delhi and Chennai, but wishes now to exhibit abroad too.
With international travel restrictions set to ease, he is hopeful that things will work out in his favour. "Special arrangements are needed to transport my miniature sculptures. Unlike a normal art exhibition, each work additionally needs a lens placed beside it to enable people to figure its original size," he says.