The famous Rock Garden in Chandigarh was created out of scrap by the legendary Nek Chand. Further south, a native of Kochi has been drawn to waste materials since his childhood. Like Chand, 52-year-old George Kuriakose, aka Kunjumon, crafts art pieces from myriad objects he comes across. Be it a worn-out spanner, a blunt screw, used conveyor pipes or a valve handle, Kunjumon would find in it, sheer resemblance with some detail of a familiar visual from everyday life. Once he sights a familiar figure in an object, he crafts a sculpture, often, within three days. Springs, nails and bolts are used to make it by assembling scrap pieces. His incredible artworks even have a strong message to convey.
Recalling his earliest works, Kunjumon said he had crafted a homestead from the stalks of coconut fronds. “We lived at Panampilly Nagar when I was a child. Big houses, skyscrapers and dwellings began to be constructed in the city when I was in my teens. I was so fascinated by those structures that I made the miniatures of most of the now-old houses in Panampilly Nagar. I have been making these miniatures for a long time now,” Kunjumon, who had exhibited his skills in painting and sketching since childhood, said.
A young Kunjumon gathered coconut stalks, used glass bottles, old newspaper pages and plastic containers to make sculptures, structures, dolls and paintings out of them. When he joined his electrician–cum–mechanic father in his vocation, surplus screws, worn out spanners, replaced machine parts and springs became his fascination. This father-of-two, who works as a mechanic with a seafood exports company, spends his free time at workplace making sculptures with wasted machine parts.
“Every solid object has a beauty hidden in it. It can join other similar objects and form a visual object from the Nature. My metallic bird that nests in a cable-wire nest and the valve-handle flower vase have strong messages against deforestation ingrained in them,” Kunjumon told Onmanorama. Faizal, Kunjumon's boss, is very supportive of his employee's creative skills. “When we asked our employees to reduce wastage of resources, I never imagined one of them would make stunning artworks out of them,” remarked Faizal.
Kunjumon has so far made over 25 sculptures using machinery scrap. He uses the welding and painting equipment at his workplace to create and polish his artworks. A miniature replica of a steam engine that was fashioned out of a replaced component in a screw compressor machine unveiled Kunjumon's talents in crafting metal sculptures. “I joined the firm 25 years ago. One of my first assignments here was to replace the core component of an expensive screw compressor machine. After completing this work, I looked at the replaced component and was amused to find its uncanny resemblance with a train compartment. I frantically collected every scrap in the mechanical unit and welded to it make it look like a train. I haven't used a single otherwise-useful piece to make it. Naturally it took quite long to finish. The screw compressor steam engine is still one of my personal favourites among my sculptures,” Kunjumon revealed.
The ingenious artist conceived the idea of a metallic bird-nest when he first saw a bundle of surplus cable wire in the dustbin. He was reminded of a bird's nest and he quickly started working on it, which became one of his acclaimed artworks later. “The statue depicts the plight of poor birds who nest in cable wires due the lack of availability of twigs and natural substances. It isn't an exaggeration but a grave reality these days,” he noted. His spanner dinosaur, peacock crafted from chain links, paper pulp cockatoo, paper-clip caterpillar and valve-handle tulip are too perfect for any unskilled artist.
Kunjumon hasn't furnished his works at independent exhibitions so far, though he has exhibited them in an art competition conducted at Darbar hall, Ernakulam, a few years ago. This unacclaimed artist's ambition is to showcase his works at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. “I am sure that my artworks and the messages they convey would attract people's attention. My art inculcates a strong message right from the time of its making. I convert unusable machine parts which would otherwise be wasted, into sculptures and décor items. I wish to take part in Kochi-Muziris Biennale. But I have limited resources to reach out to its organisers,” Kunjumon said.
Commenting on the eco-friendly aspect of his work, Kunjumon says that artworks and décor items are sought-after items which people wish to own and hesitate to throw away. Every object has an artistic beauty.He says the world can easily become a zero-waste zone if everyone looks at things aesthetically.
The artist enjoys the wholehearted support of his wife, Jincy, who is a school teacher.