Carving a solution for Chennai's water crisis

Award-winning artist Vijay Pichumani uses wood works to highlight the city’s ongoing water shortage.
Carving a solution for Chennai's water crisis
Vijay Pichumani, Artist


It’s been raining heavily in the city for the past week and everyone is enjoying the great weather. With an increase in the water levels in the reservoirs, people have forgotten about the water crisis they faced until now. Chennai’s water crisis was a wake-up call for all cities. Keeping in mind all the hardships Chennaiites’ faced, artist Vijay Pichumani has come up with a solo art exhibition called (IM)Possibilities.

An avid traveller, Vijay went on a road trip from Chennai to Thiruvarur on his bike earlier this year. It was the time when cyclone Ockhi had hit Tamil Nadu. During the trip, the amount of excess water that was wasted left him wondering. On the way, we saw a lot of uprooted trees on the sides of the road. “All this made me thinking — being an artist, how can I reconsider the concept of water using wasted wood. If there is an excess of water in one part of Tamil Nadu, there is a shortage of it in another part. I decided to focus on the concept of water excess and shortage and how we define it,” he tells us pointing to his works displayed at Art Houz in Nungambakkam.    

There is a water-droplet like installation made from 11 kinds of wood he collected from Marthandam. Depending on the type of wood, the shades on the structures also vary. “I’ve used teak, mahogany, jackfruit tree and rubber among many other kinds of wood for carving all the works,” the 32-year-old says.

India’s first lunar mission, Chandrayaan-1, in 2008 helped confirm the presence of water on the Moon. After that, the mission was to understand the extent of the presence of water on the celestial body. “I am happy about India’s advancement in space technology. But think about it: Chennai faced the worst water shortage of this decade in 2019 and are we doing anything to save the rainwater now? This thought led me to create a work titled Nila Kudineer. It’s a real work that portrays women with pots standing in a long queue waiting for water tanker to arrive. I’ve seen their life firsthand; they need to plan their daily chores according to the time when the tanker arrives,” Vijay says with aheavy sigh.

All the 13 wood-work installations were made in a year. The award-winning artist feels that there should be more awareness on the water crisis and people should find a solution to it. “Since it’s raining now, people and concerned authorities are slowly forgetting it. But that shouldn’t be the case,”he remarks.  

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