Students’ Biennale: Abijith’s little clay portraits line up images from his past


>>Welcome to the work at the heritage town of Mattancherry

The big vertical wall is covered with plywood boxes — overall, it looks like a shelf arranged in accordance with a circle drawn on its surface. And each box contains little sculptures made of clay or terracotta.

Welcome to the work at the heritage town of Mattancherry. Inside VKL, which is one venue hosting the Students’ Biennale, this work typifies a herd of beings that have a correlation with the past of their maker: Abijith E A.

The youngster has put on display 750 of his portraits, placed in 250 boxes. “It all began with one little sculpture,” says the fourth-year student at the Raja Ravi Varma College of Fine Arts in Mavelikara, 100 km south of the venue that is hosting the show overlapping with the fourth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale.

The terracotta portraits were done over the past two years, as it was in 2016 that Abijith began focusing on clay as his medium of art. “All the sculptures are portraits of people who I met in my day-to-day life…at various places. Not just in a town or village, but, say, even on a train journey,” says the native of Guruvayur in Thrissur district.

Perhaps more interestingly, the portraits are not necessarily based on the physical features of the individuals. “Instead, the works are sometimes more representative of the person’s voice, gestures and behaviour at large. Most of them are works created in informal circumstances,” the 21-year-old artist reveals.

“I may have made the works at different points in time, yet there is a connection between them. All the sculptures look like communicating something between themselves. Each sculpture is a representation of the time it was made,” says Abjijith. “I saw something special in each person; that’s what led me to make me make a portrait.”

The artist notes that each work in the series has its individuality, yet they pool into a common spirit when kept together as a collection. “Initially, my clay sculptures were a finger’s length. Later when I was into my third year (of BFA), I started making slightly larger portraits — of a palm’s length,” says Abijith.

Artist M P Nishad is the curator of the segment of the Students’ Biennale that features Abijith’s work in the ongoing Students’ Biennale with the umbrella title of ‘Making As Thinking’. “Each of Abijith’s sculpture portraits is derived from a creative connectivity of his thoughts,” says the 46-year-old, who graduated from MS University, Baroda. “Only thoughts can give birth to creative works.”

The Students’ Biennale has around 200 participants, including those from the SAARC countries, in the programme being run by the Kochi Biennale Foundation in association with the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art and the Foundation for Indian Art and Education. The section is led by a team of six curators: Sanchayan Ghosh, Shruti Ramalingaiah, Krishnapriya C P, K P Reji and Shukla Sawant besides Nishad. The participants had been selected through an open call for applications.

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