Miniature Art: Inside the Beautiful 3mm Universe
‘Sharpness & concentration to sculpt small wonders’
From carving inside the eye of a needle to creating a castle on a grain of rice, miniature art has gained traction and amused people around the world.
For many, passing a thread through the eye of a needle would be one of the most difficult things to do. It takes immense concentration and patience to be successful.
And here is Ganesh Subramanian, a miniature silversmith and artist, who has perfected the art of the little one and can place entire sculptures inside that same needle hole. Subramaniam likes to reduce normal objects to the size of a mustard seed.
“Small is beautiful, and so is my world. Most of my work is difficult to see with the naked eye. And that’s where their charm lies ”, says Subramaniam. India Media Group. Sculpted with unparalleled detail, Subramaniam’s mustard seed sized sculptures can only be seen with a 12x objective.
Popularly known as the “nano artist of Kerala”, the 46-year-old man has produced some sixty miniature works. His last piece, Escape the Covid, focuses on social awareness. Completed in 20 days, it features a man equipped with disinfectants, a face mask and a drug box breaking the chain of the coronavirus presented in the background. The finished sculpture rests on a needle. According to the Subramaniam, the chain – which is gold – is thinner than a strand of hair.
In addition to creating nano-figurines of Hindu gods and goddesses, he also made tiny sculptures of Kathakali performers and historical figures. “I made miniature models of everything from a dancing Nataraja to ‘Ananthashayanam’, all in 22 karat gold,” he adds.
Big efforts behind the small sculptures
What started as a hobby in 2005 with a 30mg sculpture of a rower with his boat, quickly turned into a passion for Subramaniam. “I found success 16 years ago when I made a miniature of a boat and a rower. It was made after several months of trial and error. Even the choice of the working tool was a challenge. I use a tool made from the usual sewing needles for all the work. A 20x objective is used when making the models, ”he explains.
He further adds that each miniature sculpture requires at least three months to be completed. To give an idea of the size of the models, he has each of them on grains of rice, needle points or pencil points. In some cases he used the needle hole itself, such as in the case of a peacock on a tree.
“Sight is the key to this job. Each day of sculpture creates so much strain on the eyes, ”he says.
Although he carved replicas of historical monuments such as the Taj Mahal and figures of Hindu deities, the piece closest to his heart is the Anantha Vijayam, a ring engraved with a 3mm high figure of the Lord Vishnu. Made in 2009 for Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma, of the former royal family of Travancore, it remains one of his most prized creations. “As soon as a button is pressed on the ring, a lens appears through which the idol of Lord Vishnu can be seen,” Subramaniam adds.
While the Anantha Vijayam is his favorite and has achieved a lot of success, which really challenged him to design a miniature version of a working code lock. The artwork holds the world record for being the smallest working gold chain code lock. “It has a three-digit combination like normal locks. I was only able to complete it on my second attempt because a slight variation in alignment could cause the lock to malfunction, ”he says.
Numerous distinctions for miniature art
News of the ring reached Malayalam actor Mohanlal who asked Ganesh to make a similar one for him in 2010. “Mohanlal saw the ring and asked for a Lord Shiva on the ring he was wearing”, he said. After Mohanlal, many collectors ordered the ring. Currently, different versions of the ring, all made by Subramaniam, are owned by around 15 people around the world.
Former APJ President Abdul Kalam also sent him a letter of appreciation for his miniature cannon. Modeled on the lines of cannons used in the 19th century, it is 4.75mm long and 1.30mm high and took two months of hard work to shape it. “I had a lot of trouble with the cannon wheels, which is really complicated,” says Subramaniam.
Subramaniam further says that miniature art in its true form is very fine, precise and difficult. It becomes expensive and takes a long time. The government is expected to provide a degree in Indian miniature art in schools across the country. This will help to give birth to a new generation of artists skilled in this ancient Indian art, ”he adds.
He received a PhD from Tamil International University, USA, and is now thinking about ways to pass his knowledge on to the next generation.
With the easing of restrictions on international travel, he hopes things will go in his favor. “Special arrangements are needed to transport my miniature sculptures. Unlike a normal art exhibition, each work additionally needs a lens placed next to it to allow people to understand its original size, ”he says.
Subramaniam dreams of one day creating a museum of the smallest sculptures in the world. He has held personal exhibitions in cities like Hyderabad, Delhi and Chennai, but now wishes to exhibit abroad as well.