Sunday, April 12, 2009

Artistic asymmetry

When you stand directly in front of what was once the main entrance to this building (that's the middle arch, now partially walled up), you will be struck by the lack of balance between its two sides. Though this perspective does not show it up that prominently, you can still make out the differences between the two sides. Without doubt, it was done deliberately by Robert Fellowes Chisholm, when he designed it almost one hundred and fifty years ago, because it appears to be something that might well have been cutting edge in the 1860s - and this is a building which needed a cutting-edge design.

Founded as a private institution by Dr. Alexander Hunter in 1850, the Madras School of Arts was taken over by the Government within two years. Though Dr. Hunter continued to be in charge, the institution was renamed the Government School of Industrial Arts, with an Industrial department that turned out building material and accesories, while the Artistic department focussed on drawing / painting, engraving and pottery. Over time, the School included other specializations like photography, sculptre and extended into metal-working. Though the Madras School was not the first formal school for art in India, it was a formidable counterpoint to the Bengal School, producing some of the famous artists and sculptors of the time. Rather ironically, its first Indian principal, in 1929, was Devi Prasad Roy Choudury who had studied his art in the Bengal School and then broke away from it. The Madras School has also had its share of break-aways, the most famous being the Cholamandal Artists village, founded by KCS Panicker, a former principal of the College of Arts and Crafts (as it is now known) along with some of his former students.

It is easy to pass by this building, right on Poonamallee High Road, without paying much attention to it. But the next time, look out for a unique feature of this building; the fish-scale roof tiles (you can see them if you click on the photo to enlarge it), which are rarely to be found anywhere these days!



4 comments:

lviss said...

THESE TILES WILL MAKE A COME BACK AFTER A FEW YEARS AND BECOME A RAGE LIKE IT HAPPENS IN THE FASHION WORLD.

ramanan said...

As usual, a good pic and nice writeup

And..A VERY HAPPY FIRST BIRTHDAY...

Hilda said...

There is something about it that really appeals to me somehow. I like the history of the place and your stories about the break-away factions and all. Sounds like a lot of artists all over the world ;)

Shantaram said...

@ Lviss: Well, the cycle seems to be over a 100 years in this case ;)

@ Ramanan: Thank you! - I forgot! Thought it was tomorrow, thanks to your comment, I remembered!!

@ Hilda: Artists are always breaking away - must be their temperamental nature ;)