For the love of clay

Last Updated : 07 August 2017, 18:42 IST

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Clay, terracotta and colours come alive in innumerable appealing forms at a modest art gallery called Chitralaya Art Gallery in Palimar, near Udupi. The gallery — owned by a popular artist in the area, Venki Palimar — is a tourist attraction that is slowly coming to limelight. Calling the art gallery modest would almost be a mistake, considering the amount of dedication, effort and resources that have gone into establishing it.

Chitralaya Art Gallery was inaugurated in May 2017 after three years of  planning and preparation. It is an art gallery that currently houses nearly 500 clay models made by Venki. He was inspired to take up art as his profession after coming across a number of rare art works in books. He has been creating clay sculptures for 20 years now.

At the entrance of the gallery, one can get a glimpse of what might be inside. The first room of the gallery has life-size terracotta models that were recently created, and paintings. Some of the models here carry messages like environment conservation. The second room houses older but equally majestic statues that are connected to art forms of coastal Karnataka, like Yakshagana.

Outside the gallery, one can spot various models too big to fit inside. A huge fort catches the eye instantly, as does the 10-feet tall sculpture with expressive faces all around. There is also a bunch of clay models of western women that are moderate in size and dressed in sophisticated terracotta clothes!

Delicate art
It is a long and painstaking process to sculpt out a model from terracotta clay, as it requires delicate handling and consistent monitoring in the right temperature. The process includes heating, drying, keeping moist and baking at different temperature levels. However, not all models make it out of the blast furnace in one piece despite careful handling. However, this has not stopped Venki from pursuing the art.
Over the years, he has not only mastered the art of clay modelling, but has also passed on his expertise for free to a number of students. “He is a strict teacher, but rightly so; for only through complete concentration and dedication one can create something good. He made sure that I got to learn all that he could teach. What more can a student ask for,” says Karthik Prabhu, Venki’s student.

Self-taught sculptor
Venki has also carved life-size models out of terracotta. Apart from clay sculptures, the art gallery also consists of a number of antique items like the equipment used to make ayurvedic medicine. It will soon have a section dedicated to antique and rare things. His interest in tribal
lifestyles has influenced his collection and art works.

Chitralaya Art Gallery has attracted a lot of attention in the area. What makes the models unique is that no two models are alike. Apart from making terracotta models of humans, Venki has also made models of forts, animals and carts. “It is almost unbelievable that one person has created all these pieces of art. Venki says that it takes nearly two months to create a terracotta clay model; so imagine the time and efforts he has invested in building a whole gallery! It is simply incredible,” says Abheesh Jain, a visitor.

Chitralaya Art Gallery is a must visit for art enthusiasts. Venki spends good time with the visitors and patiently answers all the questions. Enchanted by his terracotta works at Chitralaya, Shashikanth Shetty, another visitor, states, “The works here are so expressive that it feels as though the human forms are looking right at you. You’re almost tempted to respond to the clay models.”

The gallery is open on all days from 10 am to 6 pm. One can contact the gallery on 9844813019.
Published 07 August 2017, 17:22 IST

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