'Silent Echo' Solo Show

Gallery Sumukha, Bangalore

Silent Echo

- Lina Vincent Sunish

At the core of Ravi Kashi’s art work lies his Interest in exploring the mechanics of making meaning. Over the years, he has developed an unconventional artistic vocabulary, supported by a personalised logic, and an aesthetic structure born from a process-based act of combining ideas. He is invested in the conscious and unconscious linking of the visual image with a mental concept, which encourages a viewer to analyse and interpret much beyond the initial retinal response. The works tend to spill their secrets slowly, reliving associations imbued by the artist, and reflecting myriad others arising from individual and collective experience, and triggered memory. Silent Echo is a compilation revolving around the Object. Five distinct but interrelated pieces of work address the character, historicity, function, and relevance of diverse objects that the artist chooses to build his narratives around. He is as comfortable with the hand crafted object as with the photographed, drawn or readymade one. They each transcend different boundaries in communication and create palpably altered relationships with a viewer. However, all types of objects lend themselves to the play of visual and verbal, possibilities of multiple meaning generation and often complex paradoxes that exist in the works. Kashi seems to extract volumes of meaning from something as simple as a plastic toy chair, or as symbolic as the open Eye, by the means of precise juxtaposition of the object and the manipulation of context through grouping. His observation of human nature and sociological responses enables him to embed ‘clues’ that act as windows into his world; a world that is silent and eloquent at the same time, and inhabits spaces between physical truth and imagined reality.

With twenty five years of art-practice behind him, Ravi Kashi is from a generation of artists that experienced a complexly transforming Indian society. It brought about languages that were remarkably divergent in medium and vocabulary but rooted to an Indian contemporary. These languages were reflective of new political, cultural and economic realities and the sudden porosity of global boundaries. With an education that opened his experience to Indian art history, craft and popular culture, as well as prominent Western and Far-Eastern art movements, Kashi drew inspiration from varied frameworks. Primarily a painter until then, the turn of the century brought about a deeply conceptual approach in his art making. From 2010 onward his works moved away from formal figuration, and took several different trajectories including an extensive engagement with paper making processes. Objects began to communicate where figures did before; literal meanings were gradually translated into sub–texts, a system that follows through with the suggestive quality of his work in progressive years. A deep reciprocity between his identity as an artist and writer, and his professional work with teaching and architecture provided a rich environment for learning and experimentation.

Something that has indirectly fed his work over the years is an innate love for collecting materials and objects (new, second-hand or discarded)whether bought at local markets, found or received from friends and relatives. These objects for him are records of a time period, they come with their own stories and histories – some personal, others pubic. Some are hand-made, most are industrially manufactured and reflecting the consumerist culture we live in. Often items are obsolete and beyond functionality; several find the status of ‘antique’ with increased value. All these form a private museum of sorts for the artist, through which he also studies his own present self and psychology. In parallel to the object-collection is the gathering of writings, words, texts; an intellectual exercise that envelopes a liberal understanding of the world, and constantly interacts with the drawings in his sketch books. Familiar words, images, objects and forms recur within his works, provided with new contexts and offering additional meanings.

Kashi takes on the role of a commentator, evaluating and interpreting histories, myths, memories, people and places, events and situations. The objects and texts are an extension of his thought and artistic process. They are infused with both positive and negative connotations, and involve a viewer in the completion of their transformation from a passive state to something actively communicative. Visual devices of concealment and revelation, linguistic devices of punning, poetics and metaphoric speech, and adroitly introduced references to iconic imagery serve to produce a multi-layered, many-textured topography one is sucked into.

The large scale three-dimensional construction of a boat sits in mute solitude, filled with a plethora of objects – to what shores does it go? Is it carrying away what is long dead, is it storing belongings and trappings of human life, or simply giving birth to these faux objects from its depths? The muted hues invoke the feeling of age, dilapidation and decay. There is a play of organic and inorganic, permanence and transience, desire and rejection. A range of metaphors, commentaries and references are brought together in a cryptic continuum of associations from which meanings emerge. Silent Echo presents anomalies and reverberates with what is left unsaid.

Paper-making and sculpting has become an integral part of Ravi Kashi’s oeuvre. Here the material dictates the experience of the work. The apparent fragility of the textured medium contrasts strongly with the objects it embodies. The installation visually recalls many physical and conceptual aspects of Kashi’s past works.

Elaborating on his preoccupation with the book form, All is always Now represents the artists continued engagement with the transformative aspects of drawing. The 12 open books contain fluid and spontaneous series’ of line drawings, of objects. They seem randomly and sometimes absurdly arranged, in following with the device of the linguistic non sequitur, where one statement does not logically follow from the preceding one. Iconic art objects like Man Ray’s nail-studded iron, Duchamp’s Urinal, Warhol’s ‘Brillo’ cases and Joseph Beuy’s Chair find their place within the groupings – taken down from their pedestals to mingle with images of objects also present in other works in the compilation. The book defies its own form - it is a static object, the pages of which can never be turned, the covers of which can never be shut. Subverting the essence or definition of an object is continued in Memorial,a photographic series depicting an assemblage of wrapped objects neatly displayed in a ‘showcase’. Showcases were present in almost all Indian middle-class homes, and contained memorabilia ranging from trophies of family members, photographs, breakable knick-knack, children’s stuffed toys, statuettes of divinities, travel keepsakes and sundry items. These possessions, and their hierarchy, represented at a single glance, the social, religious, educational, political, cultural leanings of the dwellers. Kashi plays with the sociological and also personal context of the visage, mummifying every item for posterity.

The suite of five wooden cases, placed on assorted pedestals and containing diverse objects set the stage for a layered commentary on contemporary life, with all its baggage. Each box is a tongue-in-cheek tableau with ‘ready-mades’ inside, atop and below, presenting the appearance of an unconventional museum display. The juxtapositions are deliberate, not arbitrary - hierarchies of power, politics, religion and culture are scrutinised and toppled, social hypocrisies are gently mocked, and much is enveloped in dark humour and irony, a quintessential part of Kashi’s work.

At times, the senses are confused. Yet, what one constitutes as an incongruous set of objects is directed towards intertwined meanings. The objects speak in relation to one another, within the framed narrative of each box. The artist, with this work, is pushing perceptions, and extending the boundaries of his practice.

Shelf Life, the book of photographs turns to an exploration of the presences and absences of objects in everyday life. Andre Breton had once defined the ‘readymade’ as manufactured objects promoted to the dignity of art through the choice of the artist. In Kashi’s hands, and within his art, objects transmute, transform, and reappear in varied guises, creating the narrative of a perpetual metamorphosis.

An echo is the aftermath of sound; it is about reflections, repeats, parallels; about suggestion, allusion, memory and so much more. Silent Echo remains, poetically, about a chance to undo, unhear, relook, revoke and challenge ways of understanding and seeing.