May 28, 2012
Daijiworld Media Network - Mangalore
Creative, artistic, passionate, perfectionist, workaholic, reticent – these words can be aptly used to describe Antony P Fernandes of “The Modern Cement Work” and Pietro Statuary Company, located in Kankanady, Mangalore. This soft-spoken gentleman prefers to keep a low profile and often it is his work which speaks for his creative bent of mind and his artistic excellence. Though frail looking he has been creating and working on statues and images that tower over him often infusing in them with real-life like kind of charm and beauty.
Though he has seen 67 summers and has been working for nearly 5 decades giving vent to his creativity he is tireless and possesses the heartiness and liege to carry on the work he loves till he has enough energy in his body. It is this work that gives him, happiness, contentment and peace of mind without which his hands tingle and mind becomes restless and agitated. Though works of his father late Peter Fernandes and his own works adorn many churches, convents, public places, homes, temples and other religious places in and around Mangalore there is no trace of haughtiness in the man who has created them because he simply loves his work. “It is the work which keeps me happy and contented and nothing can replace the joy I get when I complete a job. Work is the kind of tonic I need to sustain myself”, Antony states.
Antony Fernandes, the third among the 8 children of Peter Fernandes and eldest male child, who had established Pietro Statuary Company in 1932, has continued the legacy of his father and is getting ready to hand over the baton to the third generation. Pietro Statuary is famous for its custom design paintings of churches and chapels, statues, altars, monuments, pulpits and other fine art carving works, cement products, mosaics and other fine art work. His younger son Mithun Mark Fernandes has inherited the genes of his father and grandfather just like Antony had inherited it from his father and has been evincing keen interest in continuing the proud inheritance.
Antony was forced to shoulder the mantle soon after his BSc in 1967 when his father fell ill. His father’s illness was just a trigger that hastened his entry into this creative field of business. “I would have come into the field soon after my graduation even otherwise”, he tells me with his unassuming smile. He adds: “as a school-going child I used to come to the workshop soon after returning from school and the first job I was assigned at the workshop was straightening of the nails. My father used to give me some pocket money for the work and slowly but steadily I learnt the nuances of the creative work”. Antony did not have any formal training and even his father did not teach him anything. “My father used to observe my work and guided me only if there was any mistake in my work”, recalls Antony.
About his initial days in the workshop Antony remarks that over the years the work of engraving and filling has become quite easy unlike a few decades back when the risk was high and involved too much manual work. “I remember working on huge monumental slabs required for graveyards and the cutting had to be perfect and so does the engraving. We could not afford to make any mistakes. I cannot even think of cutting such a big slab and working on it manually nowadays”, he avows. Initially Antony began working by challenging workers and slowly gained confidence and expertise and there was no stopping him then onwards.
It may look simple for an average person to judge the work especially statues or monuments but it is not as simple as it looks. Statues or monuments have to have proper proportion and shape without which the aesthetic beauty gets marred. “Unless you know the art or you have within you that innate talent it is difficult to manage or continue this kind of art work”, Antony states. It takes nearly 6 to 8 weeks or up to 3 months to complete a statue depending on its size. To master this one has to be a drawing artist and painter and Antony has perfected himself in this field of art. Some of his drawing including the one that depicts the captivity of Mangalorean Catholics by Tippu Sultan or the then Dharmadhikari of Dharmasthala late Manjayya Heggade coming to his house, on the walls of his workshop bear testimony to his enormous talent as an artist.
It is 80 years since Pietro Statuary Company has been established by Peter Fernandes who was bitten by the creative art form due to his working association with the then renowned artist Albert Martis, who had worked directly under the Italian painting genius Jesuit brother Antonio Moscheni, the architect of the s at St Aloysius chapel. Naturally Pietro’s (Peter in Italy) works are modeled more on Italian influence than Portuguese. At 18, Peter used his experience to set up his own company Pietro Statuary in Kankanady in 1932 which was subsequently shifted to Silva lane in Kankanady in 1945. Modern Cement Works was also established the same year. Having gifted with an innovative mind and skilful hands Peter succeeded in making his presence felt in a short span of time. His custom-designed church paintings, monuments, statues in churches and convents and memorial inscriptions stand testimony to his oeuvre.
Some of his monumental works that give credence to his genius as a sculptor are the statue of Lady of Karnataka at the Retreat House, Jeppu, 11 statues he had made in 40 days that adorn Bendur church and the aesthetic beauty of the gateway (entry gate) of Dharmasthala apart from numerous other statues and monuments that adorn various churches and chapels in India and overseas countries like Burma, Singapore, Malaysia, Africa, Europe and America. His creative work had found a patron in the then Dharmadhikari who came searching for Peter in 1945 and Peter did enormous ornamental work for the temple. Antony has immortalized the scene of Antony’s parents entering their house with their eldest son Antony after the christening ceremony and the Dharmadhikari coming to his house at the same time, in a painting.
Antony who started assisting his father from 1967 onwards slowly took over the mantle and over a period of time mastered the art to create his own mark bringing him fulsome praise and recognition. When he got into business the family was into transportation and construction business apart from the creative work of art. He thought it best to concentrate on one rather than having many and this decision brought him rich dividends. Antony could completely concentrate on this creative work which gave him immense satisfaction. “This is a creative work and it has given me lot of enjoyment and contentment. Before a customer is satisfied with my work I have to be satisfied with what I do. Unless I am satisfied with my work I don’t get peace of mind”, Antony declares. Peter Fernandes passed away in 1999 and was a pillar of strength to his son in his creative work till he was around.
Like his father some of the works of Antony stand testimony for his creativity and proclivity for perfection. He carried out the responsibility of restoring the paintings of arches, pillars and altar of St Aloysius chapel with finesse. The work had begun in 1999 and it took nearly 2 years for him to complete and the finished product is there for everyone to see. Antony’s cherished work has also been enshrined at Ursula’s convent in Mangalore. The paintings of the sanctuary, altar and chapel of Milagres church also speak volumes of Antony’s creative brilliance.
Antony says peace of mind is very important for him to carry out his job to perfection and to his own satisfaction. He also prefers to work in an atmosphere of quietude and cannot work if public watches when he works as it distract his concentration.
With age catching up Antony has reduced taking contracts of working at sites as it affects his work at his workshop, where he works full day even now. “For me money alone is not everything. I am not competing with anyone in my business. My work speaks for me and work satisfaction is what I treasure the most”, he asserts. While preparing the bust of a personality (based on photo) it has to clearly resemble like the statue of the person he intends to make, which is quite challenging. Over the years Antony has mastered this art to perfection.
Though he is happy with his work he wants to introduce some novelty into his products and come out with new technology and styles to cater to new demands and requirements. His creations have adorned not only religious places but also homes, gardens and public places. With the third generation all set to take up the mantle after a few years from now, the legacy will go on and on with the same intensity and dedication that has been the characteristic of Pietro Statuary and Modern Cement Concrete Works.