In july 1960 he joined this nursery of many of South India’s greatest artists, with K.C.S. Paniker as its charismatic Principal. During his vacations at Gudiyatam, Dakshina had the benefit of advice and guidance from his senior, A.P.Santanaraj who used to go there from Thiruvannamalai for his summer holidays. Though Paniker did not teach Dakshina, he used to watch him at work and offer very perceptive comments which proved extremely useful in his artistic development. Among Dakshina’s teachers, the ones he remembers with gratitude are H.V. Ramgopal, Anthony Doss and S.Murugesan. He learnt from them and the elder, A.P. Santhanaraj, how one could penetrate with line and colour and bring character, personality, and feeling to life.
Completing his six years course with distinction in 1966, he took his diploma and was now ready for professional career. At this stage, concerned about the small number of students in the sculpture classes under S.Dhanapal, Paniker suggested he try his hand at sculpture. Accepting the advice he decided to attend Dhanapal’s classes just for one or two hours a day to acquire basic knowledge and to get a feel of the material. He would play with clay, cement, bronze, plaster of paris, and whatever other material came his way and feel his way with his fingers to model lively forms. In 1966, he acquired land at cholamandal and began to live and work there up to 1969. One day S.Kanniappan suggested that he join the Madras School as a casual student and attend ceramics classes. Dakshina thus did a brief, informal one years stint as a student of ceramics, In 1970, he was appointed instructor at the ceramics Department. From there he moved to yet another discipline, Print-making. As a British Council Scholar, he did an advanced course in it at the Cyoydon College of Design and Technology (1978-79) Under Dennis Masi, specializing in lithography and screen printing. Working hard for eight hours a day on all days except Saturday s and Sundays, he distinguished himself and won Italy. Greece, Switzerland, and France, looking at great works of art and learning from them on his own.
Success came to him early, both as an artist and as a professional. Even as a student at the Madras School of Arts and Crafts he was able to sell his paintings. Indeed, he first participated in National Exhibition where he was a second year student. In 1985 he won the National Award. He held his first one Man show in 1966, at the local Library Authority’s building at Mount Road, Madras. From then on he exhibited extensively at prestigious exhibitions in India and Abroad, which includes the fifth and sixth Triennale-India and the Budapest Biennial for sculptures.
Among Indian painters, Dakshina responds to A.P. Santhanaraj because of the amazing penetration and fluency of the latter’s drawing. Among sculptors, he admires Dhanapal for his forcefulness, bold touches and dynamism `. Among the wensern masters, Dakshina feels closest to paul Gaugin, The moment Dakshina saw Gaugin’s wood carving and terracottas in Paris he came under the great Post-Impressionist master’s spell,. That combined with his love for indigenous workmanship awakened in him by the historic Mahabalipuram Sculptures. He was deeply drawn to the unique technique used by the great unknown masters, of leaving the rough surface untouched, and carving exquisite figures that retained the grain of the stone.
Dakshna does not seek any role models for his inspiration. He says, my inspiration comes from the people- as groups or as individuals. I get ideas by watching them closely-their moods, their postures, their gestures etc. As for my visual vocabulary, it comes from our Ayyanar Figures and African Sculptures.
Dakshina’s sharply sensuous and evocative art is very individual and exceptional. What makes it exceptional is its most personal blend of tradition and modernity, of the discipline of the one and the freedom of the other. He draws freely from ethnic iconography and imparts to it a strong contemporary thrust and finish, making it figurative without being illustrative. Tough sculpture, particularly terracotta, is closest to him, he can express himself in several other media with equal verve. What makes his versatility readily acceptable is its broad virtuoso quality that strengthens and sustains his workmanship. Whatever he does, he does extremely well because he is not sparing either in technique or conviction, That is why every work of his is strong and true, no matter what the medium.
Dakshina’s paintings and sculptures emphasize his strong affinities with tribal art in their basic lines and contours. The affinity is clear in his compositions which are forceful because of their spontaneous directness and simplicity, achieved through discipline and through craftsmanship. He has a free feeling for the material he uses, be it paint, metal, clay, or stone. He understands it thoroughly, turns it upside down, and senses every aspect of it. Then he begins to work it as his slave and it obeys his every bidding.
His colours are earthy and his forms primitive. And yet his work can speak to men and women of high fashion because of the forceful elemental feeling it evokes and its overall, absolutely disarming, quality of openness. His paintings and sculptures are therefore, almost live commentaries on the first principles of art and candid reflections on the nuances of the basic creative urge. His art is in place not only in museums and galleries but in drawing rooms and dining rooms, out in the open and also at street corners. The art of today has almost lost its social connection because of its highly personalized idiom. But Dakshina manages to reveal as much of himself through his art as possible, and at the same time, makes it socially compelling. This is because the vital roots which he humbly shares with the common people around are the focus of his work. It is artists like Dakshina who can, to quote Arnold Hauser, extend the horizon of the horizon of the masses as much as possible, so that their share in creative are can be increased and deepened.
Though perfectly comfortable in any medium, all of which he can handle with exceptional skill and sensitivity, he is primarily a sculptor with an instinctive sense of form and with a feeling for his material. His stone sculptures are vibrant with elemental energy and raw sensuousness.
He believes in turning his virile aesthetic sensibility into exuberant creativity, keeping the forms he evokes simple, direct, open and immediate, making an impact on the spectator despite their roughness which springs from the material he uses.
Dakshina makes sculpture because nothing else excites him as much in his life. Whatever problems he encounters in the process of making it are overcome with a deftness of wit and skill. His sculpture is a personal statement. But it is not private. It is intended to communicate, to appeal to sympathetic and large-hearted people. He firmly believes that his sculpture, if not now, will some day relate fully to people.
His preference is for stone which he finds very fulfilling to handle. He first draws an outline in red oxide direct on stone and begins to do the cutting and the carving. He does not need helpers. Terracotta and bronze casting need his attention at every stage and the results of his efforts are visible only in stages through various processes, while in stone he sees figures coming alive as he works. That is just so reflective of his personality and of its whole manner of expression.