I was first introduced to ‘Radha Sir’ though his portrayal of Maiya as Selkit, an Egyptian goddess, through whom the divine is shown in a human form, to assure us mortals that it is possible to attain those dizzy heights. KS Radhakrishnan’s works are divine, in thought, in form and in execution. Which is why he is without doubt India’s foremost bronze sculptor. Radhakrishnan, 62, who was born in Kottayam, Kerala, and did his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in sculpture from Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan, studying under legends like Ramkinkar Baij.
Excerpts from the interview…
Much has been written about your innings at Santiniketan. Do share an anecdote not often told…
This story goes back to 1970, when I met an 18-year-old Santhal boy, Musui, asking for alms at Santiniketan, where I was then studying. What struck me was this beatific peace and incandescent smile on his face. I offered him some money and asked him to pose and model for me so I could make his portrait. Sometime later, he came back with his head shaven. And even when I came to Delhi in the 1980s, that image stayed with me and became a permanent fixture in my work and my life. It was as though Musui and I are one.
And where does Maiya join the narrative? Especially the’ Mohenjo-Daro’ Maiya…
The ‘graduate’ Mohenjo-Daro dancing girl was a part of my exhibition, Sculptures, at Art Pilgrim, Gurgaon about five years ago. The exhibition featured some of my signature works over 30 years. This particular sculpture of Maiya shows her holding a tablet in her left hand, which is stacked with bangles. In her right hand, she carries a saptaparni leaf that is given to students who graduate from Visva-Bharati as part of a ritual. This piece has become one of my best known for getting the twains of the past and the present to meet.
What is the greater philosophy behind your works?
The presence of Purusha-Prakriti, Yin-Yang, Method-Wisdom in Buddhist sutras has always inspired me and the way I think. When looking at togetherness in the universe and how people are often brought together by a multitude of forces welded together for loftier objectives, I see the world differently. These individual figures partake in a larger scheme unknown to them, but they are each fulfilling their roles. In my works, Musui and Maiya, the duo, appear in joyous and charming dance-like movements. They are also meant to reference the existence of mutually co-existing forces which have been chronicled since time immemorial in many civilisations. This is the underlying philosophy of my creations.
What is the history of your relationship with Ramkinkar Baij?
Ramkinkar Baij was my teacher at Santiniketan, I learnt much of my art from him. I was perhaps his last student. Prof. Sarbari Roy Chowdhury, another brilliant sculptor, helped me get close to Baij. I worked with Baij for six years. Baij was a joy, and inspiration, to watch and imbibe from. He had concentration and focus very few artists have. He had grace and poise. He was like a poet playing a painter.
Art critics say Radha likes working on scale, for him size matters. True?
True, for me size matters as I am able to showcase more, express myself on a larger canvas. It gives me the power to visualise better and tell my whole story. My series ‘Ramp’ displays the diversity of many varied figures and how the outcome of random combinations changes as per the angle of vision induced by the inclination of the surface on which they are positioned. Observed from above, the Ramp is sparsely peopled. Each symbol appears with ample personal space around it, and being animated, from a side-view the entire piece looks like people hurrying across a city square, like men on a mission.
(I have, over the years, travelled with Radha, and his equally illustrious artist wife Mimi Chakravarty, to Prague, Vienna, Oslo and Stockholm. He is a mesmerising story-teller and conversationalist. His sculptures range from the small and intimate in scale to the large and lofty in dimension. They are shaped by his meditations and interpretations on migration, history, memory, loss and nostalgia, and demonstrate his deep engagement with the world around him. He bestows a sensuous quality to his sculptures through the subtleties of modelling and the extraordinary body movements of his figures. Radha is a living legend.)
Mukul Rai Bahadur is an art lover, collector and critic. He lives in Mumbai and works in a media company. He can be reached at [email protected]
Pictures courtesy: Mukul Rai Bahadur, The Kailasham Trust