When creativity takes a form

Renowned sculptors from Kolkata Uma Roy Chowdhury and Ram Kumar Manna,bring their works to the city at an exhibition — Dimensions

Written by Debjani Paul | Published:April 8, 2013 12:46 am

Renowned sculptors from Kolkata Uma Roy Chowdhury and Ram Kumar Manna,bring their works to the city at an exhibition — Dimensions

Uma Roy Chowdhury must have been about six-years-old when for the first time,she watched sculptors make idols for the annual Durga festival in Kolkata. She curiously looked and observed as the artistes gave a lump of earth the form of a young woman. She would slip out of her house everyday to watch as the sculptors then dressed the idol in fine sarees and shiny weapons. In her young mind,she saw them as men of great power; men who could transform earth into a girl,and then a girl into a Goddess. “So when I started making sculptures,I could feel life-blood in the dirt,just waiting to be given a form,” she says.

After a few years of training in Gemany under the renowned bronze sculptor Roman Kriznski,Chowdhury returned to India and has been exhibiting her own bronze work in cities across the country for the past 20 years. In Pune to showcase her latest collection at Dimensions,speaking about the underlying philosophy in her works,she says,“My work is usually about human feelings. Emotions are universal,no matter where you are or where you come from.”

Chowdhury’s pieces are studded with metaphors,revealing a new meaning with every glimpse. The sculpture titled Relationship for example,shows a partly unrolled scroll,with two faces on either side. One face belongs to a man,the other to a woman. She explains,“The scroll represents their relationship. These days,relationships are marked on paper,be it marriage or divorce. The scroll is tattered in some places and in others,it is stitched up and repaired. Because really,how can a paper decide what your relationship is?”

After 20 years of touring and exhibiting,Chowdhury is now past 60,but shows no signs of slowing down. Bronze sculpting is notoriously difficult,involving a lot of heat and heavy lifting. She laughs it off and says,“Well,lifting the metal and tools is heavy,but we lift our children without complaining about their weight. It’s the same with my sculptures,” she says.

The Goddess Durga or Parvati seems to be a consistent theme as one goes deeper into the exhibition hall,where Chowdhury’s work is accompanied by other pieces by Ram Kumar Manna,another famed sculptor from Kolkata. He is best known for his terracotta work,often in larger than life scales,going up to 10 feet high. For the Pune audience however,he has elected to show his more recent copper pieces.

Manna is known to work around a central theme for each exhibition and this time,his muse seems to be Goddess Parvati. There are busts of a young girl with her hair woven into braids,and other sculptures which depict a young woman nursing or playing with her child. On closer inspection,its easy to see that the child is none other than Ganesha. “I have portrayed Parvati just as I see her. She is not just a goddess; she’s also a young woman and a mother. In the village,we see young women braiding their hair,getting ready and sometimes,playing with children. I have shown Parvati just like this,” he says. Just like Chowdhury,his first inspiration came from watching idols being made during the Durga festival,and his collection seems a fitting homage to his beginnings in art 30 years ago.

(Uma Roy Chowdhury and Ram Kumar Manna will exhibit their work at the Ayatana Gallery in Camp until April 30)

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