What’s a helicopter doing near Kanayi’s mermaid?

Veteran artist is hurt that govt never consulted him before placing the helicopter near his sculpture which has nature around it as canvas. Support to artist pours in from across the world, but govt i

Published: 09th January 2021 06:05 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th January 2021 06:05 AM   |  A+A-

Kanayi Kunhiraman’s Mermaid statue at Shankhumugham alongside which a helicopter has been installed. Placing the helicopter here has kicked up a row | B P Deepu

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Amid the row over a helicopter being placed next to the Mermaid sculpture of Kanayi Kunhiraman at Shankhumukham here, support pours in for the veteran sculptor from artists across the state. Kanayi condemned the state government action and has decided not to attend any government events till his concern is addressed. Though Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had called Kanayi and promised further discussions after local body poll, nothing happened. 

The MI8 helicopter was installed in June 2019 by the Air Force in a bid to encourage youth to join the force. However, the issue escalated when the helicopter took up the space beside Kanayi’s sculpture which has nature around it as the canvas. Further tourism development works around it encroached more of the space around it and caused quite a stir among artists.

It was after the protests that the CM called Kanayi.  “I have never asked for any payment for the work I have done. My payment was the freedom to do the work as I see fit. The government has always given me that. However, now the sculpture is almost destroyed with the helicopter in the vicinity. I made Jalakanyaka as a representative of the sea. What’s the relevance of a helicopter there? The space was my canvas and every single tree and the landscape was part of it. It’s a sculpture close to nature and an art for the public,” said Kanayi. The CM’s office, he added, has promised to arrange a meeting soon. 

“Tourism needs to be promoted but not like this. I can only see this as a hindrance to development. I had visited the place three times after the helicopter was placed there. I will not compromise on this and I need to see it removed. I feel the pain a mother feels when her child is hurt,” said Kanayi. “Public art is the part of the post-modern art revolution. I am against museum art and this is one of the first public arts in the country itself.  The government could have consulted me before doing this,” added Kanayi. 

According to a social media post made by K P Thomas, an artist and a disciple of Kanayi, Frantisek Jakub of Slovak National Gallery had called the act the peak of barbarism while artist Sladja Celestino from Switzerland called it an inhuman cruelty.  “Perhaps, the department knew that Kanayi would reject the proposal and that could be why they never approached him. I wanted to cry when I saw the sculpture and it is sheer perversion,” said Thomas.  While some compromises were discussed, Kanayi has maintained that he will stop at nothing but the removal of the helicopter.

Veteran artist is hurt that govt never consulted him before placing the helicopter near his sculpture which has nature around it as canvas. Support to artist pours in from across the world, but govt is unmoved

Use greenery to separate two: Adoor Gopalakrishnan 
I had visited the place and the suggestion I have is to use some trees or shrubs to fill the open space between the helicopter and the sculpture to separate them. We can look at helicopter as another sculpture. As it is, it was placed to give children an opportunity to see all this. In fact, I think after placing the shrubs, we can place a plaque next to the sculpture crediting the artist so that visitors including the younger generation will know about the work and its creator. And if at all there were issues with the placement, it should have been brought up before it was installed. I don’t think it will create any negative effects on the sculpture or the sculptor. It will only bring a different kind of focus on him.

No justification for breaching space, says M K Sanu
For Kanayi’s sculptures, space is necessary. I can’t justify it if that space has been breached. I had spoken to the people in charge. Kanayi’s speciality itself is that he gives much importance to space and places his work in public amid people. I don’t know if politicians will understand the importance of space in art. He is respected worldwide and the public has a responsibility to listen to him. 

There’s a way out, says Soorya Krishnamoorthy 
I got involved in the recent talks trying to find a compromise which will suit both Kanayi and the tourism department. Seeing an artist like Kanayi hurt is not acceptable. While moving the helicopter itself may not be practical, a more viable suggestion has been made. We can guard the area around the sculpture and use trees to hide the helicopter from sight. It should address the objections raised by both sides. 

An insult to a great sculpture, says Paul Zacharia
I had visited the place earlier this week and saw the changes. It’s a wrong decision to place the helicopter there. I have no doubt about it. Whoever took the decision had not applied their mind. Kanayi has made the best of public sculptures in the state itself. The sculpture at Shankhumukham is one of his best works. It should have been planned without clashing with this work. Clearly, whoever did it doesn’t understand the value of art. They could have consulted Kanayi before doing this. It’s an insult to a great sculpture.  


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