On the Open Road: Exploring Old Memories in Retrospective
Renowned sculptor K.S. Radhakrishnan, a pioneer in the resurgence of Indian sculpture, is set to be celebrated through his first-ever retrospective exhibition.
This exhibition has been curated by the distinguished art historian Prof. R. Siva Kumar, and will display the artist’s work from four decades of his life. It will take place at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Bikaner House, from November 19 to December 14, 2023.
Born in 1956 in Kerala, Radhakrishnan’s artistic journey began with painting under the influence of his uncle, P.N. Narayanan Kutty. However, he soon transitioned to sculpture, earning a Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts from Visva Bharti University at Santiniketan.
Radhakrishnan’s distinctiveness lies in his preference for traditional sculptural processes, particularly bronze casting. His affinity for traditional mediums sets him apart from his contemporaries, who explore newer materials.
On the Open Road: Traditional Material, Contemporary Memories
With a profound commitment to reinvigorating age-old sculptural techniques with modern sensibilities, Radhakrishnan’s work celebrates sensuality and seamlessly blends intimacy and universality.
His sculptures usually feature a notable scale and presence that harmonise with natural settings. Many of them have found permanent homes in esteemed public collections worldwide.
The retrospective will present a comprehensive overview of Radhakrishnan’s five-decade career and feature early works, abstract sculptures and portraiture from the 1970s and 1980s.
Notably, the exhibition will showcase the iconic figures of Musui and Maiya, representing a transformative engagement that began in 1998. Musui, a young Santhal man, has evolved into various personas under Radhakrishnan’s deft hands—from a saint to an imp, rickshaw-puller, and more.
The Ramp, Musui as Saint, and the Freehold series, born from this ongoing exploration, stand out as masterpieces.
On the Open Road: Displaying the Work of KS Radhakrishnan
The sculptor’s enduring connection with Musui, the young Santhal boy he met during his student years, remains a central theme in his work. Immortalised avatars of Musui welcome visitors from different parts of the world and feature in many of Radhakrishnan’s public installations.
Another highlight of this exhibition is ‘The Human Boxes’ series, which reflects the artist’s empathetic response to the lives of migrants in Delhi, which he drew from his own experiences as a migrant from Kerala.
Additionally, the exhibition will feature an outdoor display of Radhakrishnan’s most recent work, “The Crowd” (2023), a monumental installation comprising 50 six-foot-tall bronze figures. “The Crowd,” inspired by the migrant labourers of Delhi, captures the humanist essence of Radhakrishnan’s work, inviting viewers to explore intellectual and emotional realms.
Bringing Art Closer to the Public
The exhibition will also display photographs of some of Radhakrishnan’s sculptures that are on public display in India and France.
Radhakrishnan’s preferred medium, bronze, provides strength to his “airbound figures.” These figures often feature supple spines and long limbs. They are characterised by a lightness, softness, and sense of energy that seem impossible to obtain from such a hard metal.
Radhakrishnan’s teacher, Ramkinkar Baij, inspired his dedication to bringing art to the public. It is evident in the open-air installations scattered across Santiniketan and in the various public installations he has created.
The Legacy of the Master Sculptor
KS Radhakrishnan has produced some of the biggest bronze sculptures in India. Through solo exhibitions at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Bengaluru, Lalit Kala Akademi in Delhi, Birla Academy of Art and Culture in Kolkata, Emami Art Gallery in Kolkata, and multiple exhibitions in France,
Radhakrishnan’s sculptures have been exhibited both solo and in group settings all over the world. In addition, he has participated in the India Art Fair, Beijing Biennale, and Triennale India.
On the Open Road not only showcases Radhakrishnan’s past achievements but also unveils his latest creations, indicating his unyielding commitment to experimentation and evolution.
As Radhakrishnan, now 67, reflects on the changing art market, he emphasises the importance of patrons who value creative freedom. His unwavering fascination with real people still persists. We can say with unwavering certainty that his future works will continue to delve into the depths of human stories.
The retrospective, a culmination of Prof. R. Siva Kumar’s ongoing dialogue with Radhakrishnan, promises to be a journey through the shifting focuses and high points of the sculptor’s remarkable career.
Visitors to Bikaner House will witness the brilliance of Radhakrishnan’s bronze sculptures, each telling a unique story, from November 19 to December 14, 2023, between 11 am and 7 pm.
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