The 32-yr-old contract worker surpassed the world record set by Pakistani student Abdul Baseer, who had achieved the same feat with a 50-chain link in January.

Karnataka mans 58-chain link carved from pencil lead enters him into Guinness Book
news Sculpture Monday, September 23, 2019 - 16:28

After four months of intense wait, Guinness Book of World Records (GBWR) has officially announced a Karkala artiste’s 58-chain link as the ‘Most links carved from pencil lead (graphite)’. With his achievement logged, the 32-year-old contract worker of Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited (KPTCL) surpassed the former record set by Pakistani student Abdul Baseer, who had achieved the same feat with a 50-chain link in January.

For this stencil artiste – who was formerly famed for his sketches of gods, goddesses and famous personalities, the art of lead carving came to him by chance, he says.

During the 2011 World Cup, Surendra says he came across a news story of an artiste carving a ‘World Cup’ with chalk. “Quickly I picked an unused pencil-lead from my boss Nishchitha D Suvarna at MESCOM and made a miniature artwork of ‘World Cup’ and showed it to her. An art critique herself, she was impressed by my amateur attempt and encouraged me to make another model of a goddess’s statue, which I did with ease. So she asked me to pursue my talent seriously,” he says.

Although unwilling at first to go beyond his comfort zone of stencil art, coaxed by his boss, Surendra eventually agreed to hone his new skill. Initially, Surendra said he limited himself to making lead-based musical instruments, chain link, gods, goddesses, Christ, and personalities like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mother Teresa or chain links made out of lead.

In the span close to a decade, Surendra said that he has delivered a total of 120 lead-based artworks, using almost all the famed brands of pencils including Natraj, Apsara, Camlin. “But given the fact that lead-based artworks are brittle, almost 40 of them have broken into pieces,” he says.

The micro-artiste said that he used regular 10B or 12B pencil that on average is 8mm in length. “Given that this lead-based art form is very intricate, pencils over 10B – provide room to add more elements to the creativity. However, beyond 12B, they are not locally available. A few of my acquaintances based abroad told me that they will get size 12B and beyond, but it didn’t materialise,” he says.

Over a period of time, Surendra said that he has evolved doing micro-arts involving Bharatanatyam Bhangi (Position) or Yakshagana related models, for which he cannot use pencil lead. “We need more flat variants of lead – which are available with the plywood companies. A few of the local plywood companies share it with me whenever they have excess supply of lead,” he says.

In a candid admission, Surendra says that as much as micro-art seems simple, the biggest ‘terror’ in micro-art is while giving the final touches to the ideas. “A small miscalculation in estimating the depth, length, and weight-bearing capacity of the lead, can mean disaster. On several occasions, whenever the lead breaks – it has either left me staring blankly at the broken end – recollecting the time and patience invested or sometimes left me with tears,” he says. Rejoining the broken lead is next to impossible, he adds. He suggests that the artiste can only learn from his past mistakes, move on and start again, he says. 

Interestingly, Surendra says that he never uses any specialised lenses or equipment to handle the delicate and intricate artwork. “Earlier I used only the regular blades, knives, and scissors to perform the art. Also, needles play a very crucial role in giving the final touches. Lately, with some help from my well-wishers, I sourced some surgical equipment for the ease of handling of the lead,” he says.

A few years ago, during a micro-sculpture exhibition at SDM, Dharmadhikari of Sri Kshethra Dharmasthala and Chairman of SDM Educational Trust D Veerendra Heggade appreciated my art and suggested that I must attempt a world record. He put me in touch with his students, who had formerly attempted a World Record in a Rubik-Cube event. “Then a student of SDM, Pratyush K Bhat systematically guided me with the rules, regulations and gave me guidance. After years of practice and perfecting the chain-link, I decided to give it a shot,” he says.

Narrating his D-Day on April 7, Surendra said that as per GBWR, he had to summon their officials, however that meant inflating the event expense by Rs. 7 lakh. But alternatively, Guinness Book of World Records rules also gave leeway to Surendra to arrange local witnesses, including a gazetted officer and videotaping the entire event to bear testimony to his performance. “Almost over 100 people had gathered at the Rotary Balabhavan venue at Karkala, from 7am till 7pm. It was very intimidating as there was no room for error. But I was able to gather my concentration and patience, and string together the 58-chain graphite link and succeed,” he says.

“Subsequently, unedited footage of the event along with witness statements were sent to GBWR and in the mid-week of September, they announced the result,” he says.

Besides his passion for lead-art, Surendra says that he was also honing his skills on wax-models, chalk-piece art, and acrylic colour painting. Having completed his education in an Industrial Training Institute (ITI), Surendra says that he wanted to complete his Diploma in Electrical. However, family commitments, including taking care of his aged parents and his three sisters, had compelled him to step back from pursuing his studies. Drawing a salary of Rs. 12000 from Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited, (KPTCL) as a ‘temporary worker’, he hopes his service is regularised soon.

Apart from monitoring the news for any challenge to his new accomplishment at GBWR, Surendra who already has 108 lead-based miniatures of Bharatanatyam Bhangi’s (positions) to his credit, says that he wants to create more variety of them so that it becomes a referral point for future generations to understand the intricacies of the art. “Photographs are generally 2D image, the younger generation wants to see beyond it. Micro-sculpture can be a great alternative to understanding art and dance forms,” he concludes. 

Story by Story Infinity (Subs and Scribes Media Ventures LLP.)

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