Born in Kerala in 1956 and trained in sculpture at Santiniketan, K. S. Radhakrishnan belongs to a small group of notable sculptors of his generation who have collectively brought about a far-reaching resurgence in Modern Indian sculpture.
Like his mentors, Radhakrishnan is primarily a modeller who works in clay and makes his work permanent in bronze, and the human figure is his main subject. Since 1996 he has been working with two, part real and part imaginary, characters called Musui and Maiya. He uses them, on the one hand, to explore the physical and social world around us and to speculate on the nature of its reality, and on the other, to explore the possibilities of the human body and the potentialities of sculpture itself.
The body is a marker of our individuality and our shared humanity, but our political and social realities fracture our collective humanness at many levels.
Radhakrishnan engages with this conundrum of our existence through explorations of unitariness and collectiveness using the human figure. His recent work assumes three main forms: the single-figure sculptures that explore human singularity through bodies that evoke freedom through gravity-defying acrobatic postures performed with astonishing ease; the Ramps in which the singular and the many enter into sculptural dialogues; and a series of small sculptures in which an infinite number of tiny figures are brought together to form shape-shifting murmuration-like human formations.
He offers these sculptural meditations not as ponderous statements but as subtle experiences that we, as viewers, have to flesh out with our eyes, mind and imagination. And his working process provides us with an entry point into his sculptures. Fragmentation, repetition, and grafting define his work process. Most of his large figures, invoking the singular and almost all the smaller ones denoting the deindividualized multitudes, are done by welding multiple fragments together. He is suggesting, as it were, that our sense of wholeness and singularity of form and movement is an illusion born out of parts fused together.
Such a work process introduces an element of play into his ostensibly representational sculptures, the play of turning one into many and many into one. It creates a sculptural inventiveness suffused with pleasure. And what we often see as lightness and joyousness in his figures is an outward expression of the play at the heart of their making.
The word crowd is often associated with rioters, looters, protestors, and revolters. A crowd is seen as destructive or revolutionary depending on from which side of the ideological divide we look at them. They are sometimes an unhappy group of leaderless anarchists, and sometimes they are a people turned into an instrument of brutality by a demagogue. And occasionally, they are seen as people dehumanised and rendered helplessly frozen by a totalitarian power, as in the work of the Polish sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz.
The people in Radhakrishnan’s sculpture The Crowd have a different ancestry. They have their origins in the quotidian patterns of our daily life; in the people who cross each other at a street corner, on a railway platform or in a market square. Or gather together in a celebration of social conviviality at a performance of popular music or a festive fair. These are transient and recurring events in a city’s or town’s life. A city square, a railway station, a fairground, or a marketplace fills, comes alive and empties out day after day. People breathe life into these spaces, and while doing so, their individualities are temporarily subsumed but not entirely erased. The crowd is a poetic celebration of this aspect of our life.
This is a sculpture not meant to be experienced from a distance or from the outside. The space between the figures is an invitation to us, the viewers, to enter the crowd, be a part of it and experience it from within. Not just with our eyes but also with our bodies, as the figures respond to each other.
- Curator’s note by R. Siva Kumar