Wednesday, January 14, 2009

KANAI KUNHIRAMAN -Splendour in Stone

Splendour in Stone

Kanai Kunhiraman is one of the celebrated sculptors in Kerala, India. I had the good fortune to receive an award for “creative writing” from him in the late 70’s. This was when Kanai was a Professor at the Fine Arts College for a while.
Kanai's Oeuvre:
“Yakshi” ( a fairy, or a female extra terrestrial being) : Done in 1969, it was made of concrete. It depicts a woman in a seated posture,her legs spread leaving her womb exposed, almost as if she is giving birth. The statue is gigantic in proportions and is placed in the Malampuzha gardens near the famous dam. Behind the sculpture, the peaks of the Western Ghats rise in quiet majesty carpeted by lush green forests. The river that has been harnessed by man with the dam, completes the backdrop. It is nature at its majestic best and the sculpture captures the beauty and the power of nature to provide life and nurture it. Given that the female form in all its voluptuousness was in the nude, it became a controversy. However, wiser counsel prevailed and the statue was not clothed!! Kanai mentioned that nature had to be shown it in natural form and he like many, conceive it as a female life giving form.

“Kadal Kanyaka” (Mermaid): Done subsequently and placed at Shanghumugham beach in Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram), this depicts the sea and therefore the female form is shown as reclining. Kanai explains that the Mermaid was postured as horizontal,in harmony with the Ocean, unlike the “Yakshi” ,which was vertical, since the backdrop there was the mountains.

“Shanghu" (The Conch):is at the Tourist Village in Veli near Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram). It denotes wealth from the natural elements, which is what the tourism effort is all about. Once again, the setting is natural with the "conch" being placed between water and land.

Kanai holds that nature is the mother of man and that all ‘art’ in turn, is created by man. To signify the connection therefore, his sculptures are kept unfettered in the open, where man can access it without any barriers. He does not want his sculptures to be "caged like animals in a zoo" within the confines of museums.

He has done may bronze sculptures, including the famed one of EMS Namputhiripad (The first elected Communist Chief Minister in a democratic India). He mentions "Mookola Perumal" as a favourite. Here he used three pillars to denote the three stages of time and a globe to represent earth(If I am right). On another occasion, he used “fertility” as a symbol while designing the frontal landscaping for a building belonging to a fertilizer company(details not available currently).

Kanai mentions his visits to Europe as extremely educative and counts Professor Butler and Henry Moore as great influences. He also rates Raja Ravi Varma, the painter very highly. He believes that art has to reflect the culture and nature around us and should be simple. He does not follow any “movements” like post- modernism, etc for the sake of it.

Those of you who follow Malayalam can click on the link below to view a very interesting interview with the man himself.

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