Artist Kalyan S Rathore known for his new connect with materials and sensibilities, interprets his work ‘as seen through maths and geometry.’ His new accomplishment is a massive metal art-installation of a squirrel titled ‘Alilu Seve’ in Kannada (meaning – Squirrel’s service) at the Ayodhya Railway Station.
Bengaluru: Public art installation, painting or sculpting in various materials is part of artist Kalyan S Rathore’s core persona. Where he defines himself unambiguously is his appetite to explore hidden geometric sensibilities in everything he looks at, especially natural surroundings. “All across nature there are principles behind natural growth,” he says. Bengaluru-based Kalyan dabbles with strips of steel for public art, he uses waste material like discarded mineral water bottles, broken glass or wooden pieces for installation art, and his canvas sees a palette of designery out of acrylic colours.
“I discover opportunities to express a language of sculptural art,” he says, centring his public art on solid, scientific, narratives that are sometimes evident and at times cryptic.
Kalyan Rathore is reinventing his craft to make it relevant to people in general. Earlier in 2013, he put together a 15’4” tall photograph sculpture installation for Accenture that bagged a Guinness Record in 2013. As a certified designer from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, he also conducts ‘Mechanism of Creativity’ workshops that attract people from many professions. Several IT companies in the city sport his imaginative vision in furniture.
Kalyan S Rathore shared his thoughts in an exclusive to The Balcony Stories on his Ayodhya installation, something that would be remembered as a token of affection from a Karnataka artist towards a larger aesthetic cause
How did you think of bringing in a squirrel for Ayodhya, what was your pitch that made it work?
When this opportunity to pitch for a sculpture at the new Ayodhya railway station’s atrium came my way I was elated.
I was sure in my mind that it had to be something purposefully different than what most would expect. Yet it should have a solid connection to the theme of this holy region.
My signature style has always been one where I would take an industrial and practical approach to the build process. Applying this method I set out to explore the narrative of Ramayana. I decided to consciously avoid the first temptations of showing deities in a contemporary style.
Back in the day when I was growing up in my home town Bengaluru, the city was replete with birds and creatures of all kinds. It was a common site to see squirrels running up to my suburban Veranda, and daring to eat out of my hand. It is at that formative age that I first remember hearing the story of Ramayana from my father.
The stories were indeed packed with values, glory and virtues. Nonetheless, as a silly child the biggest and lasting impact of Ramayana left in my mind was that of a deft little squirrel.
Legend has it that when the strong and mighty were moving mountains to bridge the island of Srilanka, this creature took it upon itself to be of some use.
A squirrel that could have easily assumed that it was too insignificant to be of any assistance, undeterred wanted to do its bit.
So the story goes that the furry rodent used its tail and back to collect sand from the shore, and dust it off on the bridge that was being built. Performing this cycle with feverish repetitions until it could not move a muscle any more. Seeing this dedication Lord Ram was so touched that he blessed the squirrel and lovingly caressed its back. Leaving a streak along its hunch, that’s evident to this
date. So I decided a squirrel it should be and I pitched one in my geometric style.
How exactly did you go about sculpting this, what material have you used to have the orange hue, and how long did you work on this?
As with most of my abstract animal forms, it always begins with sketches and observations of the animal. How can I capture its most prominent character and spirit? What makes a squirrel, a squirrel? Should it be a static astute posture or a fun dynamic stand? Somehow a form is arrived at. I then make the character highlights using plane simple shapes.
There is a geometric predisposition that every amorphous object is asking to be converted to, and wants to become. I facilitate this transition and freeze the shape.
Interestingly the faceted surfaces, like the cuts on a diamond, add a dynamic play of light and shadows, bringing a surreal air to the work like a silhouette but in three dimensions.
This sculpture is 15 feet tall, weighs around 2.5 tons (which is relatively a light weight, owing to the methods and design).
It is made of Corten, an alloy of steel, which is meant to develop a ‘rust like’ hue on the surface, but does not corrode and eat into the material. This makes it an ideal choice for a maintenance free installation.
Normally a sculpture like this would have taken about 40 days to create, but this was done in 15 days having risen to the demands of deadline. The orange hue is from the oxidation of ferrous in the material.
What are your thoughts behind this installation, taking a larger perspective of the story behind the squirrel’s role in the Ramayana…
This installation, I hope will bring to the fore the essence of contributing to the society without prejudgments of magnitudes.
We are all insignificant as individuals, yet if we align our thoughts and actions towards a larger purpose, we become one with the driving force behind any noble cause, be it a family, team at work, community, nation or humanity at large. Perhaps there is also relevance here to the protection of ecology, where one is tempted to treat issues of global concerns as needing only global solutions. Why not look at them as a consolidation of individual actions? If the audience, especially children can see the analogy that applies in today’s context I would feel blessed and rewarded for my art work here.
I hope this installation is a message from Karnataka, where the phrase in Kannada “Alilu Sevé” takes a connotation of being mindful and contributing through actions in times of need, being oblivious to how little our actions are in the larger scheme of things .
This work is an extension of your persona, of being a teacher in art – in line with your belief to showcase art as seen through maths and geometry… Explain your beliefs in your school of art?
More than seeing my role as a teacher I see myself as an individual obsessed with wanting to share my experience with anyone who is eager. The children I have interacted are fascinated when I show them that your Math and Art teachers don’t have to be two different individuals. Nature, evolution and the cosmos all have beauty and math in such measures that one can’t draw a borderline between the two subjects.
Your installation for Accenture bagged you a Guinness Record, also throwing light on the range of material used by you… tell us the range of material you have worked with, and what interested you the most…
The Guinness world record was for a sculpture I created using only photographs. For it to stand strong despite being made of paper, I had to innovate a method of folding and interlocking. I drew inspiration from structures in nature, especially the bee hive. I have worked with paper to steel, soft to hard that is; and I have been revealed the secrets of nature, I believe. Their similarities and differences, the way they yield or support grand designs. There is no end to questions about material properties. Such explorations take you to the depths of quantum physics where reality as we know it is also questioned. What is matter, space or energy? These thoughts are humbling to us humans. There is a feeling of oneness with everything around us as we delve deeper when the ‘I know for sure’ becomes ‘I believe’; where known science ends and pure consciousness begins.