T Pankajaksha

Arts Research and Documentation

Grant Period: Over two years

The development of traditional sculpture as an art form is closely related to the inputs that can be provided to practicing traditional sculptors. Currently, there is a need to bridge gaps between the theoretical knowledge available in classical texts, the contemporary literature on the subject, and the concerns of ordinary sculptors who form the backbone of the profession.

Sanskrit classical texts ‘Shilpasastras’, which expound on the principles and techniques of the art form, are inaccessible to ordinary sculptors who are mostly uneducated. Without a sound theoretical knowledge, sculptors are relying on individual experience and entangled in doubts and fears of going against the ‘sastras’.

Some good texts have emerged on traditional sculptures of south India, however, there is still not enough material that explains aesthetic and stylistic differences between various schools. Moreover, there are not many training schools for traditional sculptors, and most of the learning happens on job working under craftsmen. The sculptors come from economically and socially backward classes, and do not have resources to travel to temples and monuments to understand for themselves the differences in styles.

In an attempt to salvage this situation, Mr. Pankajaksha, a young traditional sculptor and winner of Karnataka state awards, plans to undertake a research to prepare a sourcebook in simple Kannada that will be accessible to an ordinary traditional sculptor. The sourcebook will include an introduction to the texts of 'Shilpasastras'; a series of line-drawings illustrating aesthetic features of Chola, Chera, and Hoysala styles with supplementary explanatory notes and photographs; identification of geographical, ideological, and historical aspects of each style; minute details of aesthetic features of key sculptures in different styles; and, tips for creating new works within the confines of traditional aesthetic principles.

The sculptor plans to travel to a number of temples and museums to photograph and prepare line drawings on site. The work plan also includes study of contemporary and ancient texts in libraries, archaeological departments and handicraft institutions; and discussions with eminent scholars, sculptors, students, and critics.

At the end of two years, he also plans to register his organisation ‘Roopa Shilpa’ in order to establish a centre for learning for traditional sculptors. The equipment and books bought during the grant will be donated to this organisation.