LONG AFTER retiring from the air force as wing commander, K.M. Narayan finds himself in need of tools, but those far modest than the radars and missiles of his past.
After he lost his wife to cancer and the marriage of his two daughters, scissors and sharp knives have kept him company. Save for his walking stick, it’s hard to imagine Narayan is 82. The intricacy of his cutwork suggests that the artist had the advantage of youth, further belying his age.
“Through my service days I found myself drawn to non-technical and non-scientific pursuits,” says the resident of Wadala whose work was recently displayed in the city. “Civilian life is very difficult for an ex-service officer. I knew that I had to keep challenging myself in these endless days.”
It’s been four years since he took up making silhouettes of felt paper. “It requires finger dexterity and hours of concentration. The exciting part is also innovating tools to facilitate the craft,” he says. “For the cutwork I have used special carving knives, which had to be imported and I also rely on household object like hairpins, safety pins, ear buds, toothpicks and a variety of blades and scissors.”
His education in electronic and radar engineering allows Narayan to build innovative tools for his artwork.
“I've built stereos, amplifiers and other complicated gadgets,” he says. “I have dabbled in oil painting, nail and thread installations, batik printing and glass painting.”
Forms such as Gandhi, Ganesha and zodiac symbols feature in his cutwork.
Narayan’s latest artistic passion is dry leaves and flowers pressing, for which he has devised an instrument that allows plants to retain their colour and not crinkle.
“Nature provides all the resources one needs,” he says. “There is a running joke in the family that I should not be left around a bouquet of flowers because I will want it for my new obsession.”