‘Artist’ by Karthikeyan. Credit: Narendran.K
  • Opinion

Krishnapriya C.P. on Archiving Labour

13 April 2018

A reimagining of the iconic labour monument in Chennai by the young artists, Deepika, Kameshwaran, Sinduja, Thalamuthu and Padmapriya.



In March 2018, the students of the Government College of Fine Arts in Chennai presented an exhibition titled "Archiving Labour" curated by Krishnapriya CP. In an essay on the experience for The Wire, Krishnapriya writes:

Removing themselves from the regular artistic practices of their institutions, the collective of student-artists from the Government College of Fine Arts in Chennai and Kumbakonam started researching, documenting, conceptualising and visualising labour as a lived reality and created artefacts drawing out its experiential aspects. Most of the students in the two colleges come from families that are involved in occupations of hard labour or traditional crafts, and have migrated to cities to hone their own artistic skills, some even as first generation learners. Studying their own families, people located close to them, and the work they are connected with, became the crux of the students’ endeavour.

This combination of critical eye and empathetic ear ensured an exhibition that was powerful and inspiring. There are installations on stone cutters, manual scavengers, rice huskers, laundrymen, bronze lamp makers, signpainters, labour pain and childbirth, the industrial roots of arts and craft education and much more.        


Glimpse from the Exhibition:

‘Revathy’ by Thalamuthu, Credit: Padmapriya

‘Revathy’ by Thalamuthu, Credit: Padmapriya

"Thalamuthu is a student of sculpture interested in sculpting portraits, a strong practice within the college. While our cities are populated with busts of political leaders and people of significance, Thalamuthu sculpted a bust of Revathy, a railway-track cleaner at the Chennai Central railway station, honouring an unknown worker engaged in work that is known but unacknowledged. Several questions arise from the work: is Revathy important enough for her portrait to be made? Who gets recognised for their work and who does not? After sculpting the portrait Thalamuthu took it to the station and displayed it there, as a public monument." Source: