C.S. Viswam (1924 - 2010)

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Death: Died in Trivandrum, Kerala, India
Cause of death: old age.
Occupation: Chief Artist and Sculptor, Kerala Handicrafts Development Corporation
Managed by: Sharat Sunder Rajeev
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About C.S. Viswam

' The man behind globetrotting sculptures Reema Narendran, First Published : 03 Apr 2010 12:57:00 AM IST ' http://expressbuzz.com/topic/the-man-behind-globetrotting-sculptures/162018.html

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: At the Reader’s Digest headquarters in New York is a wood carving of the ‘Indian Newspaper Boy’. Move to France and at the Interpol headquarters in Paris, there is an exquisite carving of ‘Geethopadesh’ in ivory. Take a flight to Moscow and at the Gorky Centre in Moscow, you will find ivory figures of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Unknown to the world, all these figures had their genesis in this city of Ananthapuri, at the hands of master craftsman C.S. Viswam, a resident of Vazhuthacaud.

The details of these globetrotting exquisite pieces of art are unfortunately lost somewhere in the annals of history. There are no written records of who took them where. Viswam has unfortunately developed a growth in his brain, which has affected both his mobility and memory.

Now at the age of 85, all that C.S. Viswam talks is about his chisel. ‘‘In his younger days, he would go on working on the piece quite past the deadline and the customers would just rush in at the last moment and take the pieces away. We never got any time to document where these carvings went or who took them,’’ said Latha Mangesh, Viswam’s daughter and a teacher at the Christ Nagar School.

The few little things that were documented are purely fascinating - when the third Secretary General of the United Nations U. Thant retired in 1971, the Indian Government presented him with a Buddha in ivory. It could be somewhere in Burma, the keeper knowing nothing about its creator - Viswam.

Likewise, a visiting team from Rome took Viswam’s ivory carving of ‘Virgin Mary and Infant Jesus’ with them. It is now exhibited at the Vatican Museum.

Viswam’s works can be found at the famed museums of the world, including the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, which houses Picasso’s Guernica! ‘‘Once, when I went to Madrid, I had been walking around the Museum and there was his name, C.S. Viswam, staring out at me from beneath an ivory idol. I was so shocked and surprised,’’ said his son-in-law M. Balan. No one knows the exact routes taken by Viswam’s creations or where they could be now.

Viswam’s ‘Sivathandava’ is exhibited at the Gorky Centre in Moscow, an alluring ivory carving of ‘Lady after bath’ in Switzerland and one of Stalin in wood at the Gorkhy Recreation Centre. All that is known about these figures is that they were taken as gifts from the Indian Government.

What is the most striking aspect of Viswam’s work is the expression on the face. Be it Jesus Christ, Lenin, Buddha or Menaka, the face is sure to leave you spell-bound. But beyond the expression, the carvings have such a finesse and perfection that it leaves no doubt on the genius behind the creation. The sculptures of ‘Menaka’ with her arms stretched out and that of ‘Lady after bath’ are both sensuousness ‘personified’. ‘Menaka’ was gifted to the Japanese Ambassador to India and the ‘Lady after bath’ is now in Switzerland.

Hailing from a family of traditional artists, Viswam was initially trained by his father. After primary and Sanskrit education, he joined the Sri Mulam Fine Arts and Ivory Carving Works under the tutelage of the master sculptor Silpa Retnakara N. Veloo Achary, FRSA (London) to learn ivory carving. ‘‘He was appointed the chief artist at the SMSM Institute at the age of 21,’’ said his wife Santha quite proudly.

When the Handicrafts Development Corporation was formed in the year 1969, he was appointed the chief artist and master craftsman, the position he held till his retirement in 1989.

Unfortunately, none of his children - Subhash, Latha, Unnikrishnan and Mohandas - took up art as a profession, despite the fact that Viswam had won the National Award for Ivory Carving in the year 1968. But many of his students, including foreigners, did make it big in the world of art, winning several awards, both at the state and national levels.

The state still has a couple of Viswam’s works at the Kunchan Smarakom - a wood carving for preserving the ‘ezhuthani’ (iron stylus)of Kunchan Nambiar and figures of Christ at several churches. In the city, you will find a few at the Forest Museum and one at Technopark.

reema_narendran@expressbuzz.com

C.S. Viswam passes away http://www.hindu.com/2010/08/03/stories/2010080361040300.htm Special Correspondent [] THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: C.S. Viswam, national-award-winning sculptor, died in a private hospital here on Monday following ailments related to old age. He was 86.

His sculptures, renowned for their ethereal touch, mood and expression, are on display at museums across the world.

An ivory carving, “Virgin Mary and Infant Jesus,” displayed at the Vatican Museum, an ivory idol at Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, an ivory carving presented by India to the UN and an ivory carving ‘Geethopadesh' at the Interpol headquarters in Paris are some of his notable works.

A national award in handicrafts came to him in 1968.

He became the chief artist at the SMSM Institute in Thiruvananthapuram at a young age of 21 and went on to become the master craftsman at the Handicrafts Development Corporation in Kerala. Some of his works are on display at the Thunchan Smarakom, Tirur, and the Forest Department's museum here.

He is survived by his wife, Santha Viswam, three sons and a daughter.

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C.S. Viswam's Timeline

1924
June 2, 1924
1969
1969
- 1989
Age 44
2010
2010
Age 85
Trivandrum, Kerala, India
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