Shifting periphery

Artist note about the show  

Communication is a slippery business and painting is trying to communicate all the time.  I thought I should write this note about the present series of works, so that I can share my ideas and concerns in words in the fond hope that this might help the viewer to appreciate my works better. I am aware that this is only one reading among the hundreds that are possible.

I have been collecting these boxes, transparent wrappers, bristle packs, caps and other things for about four years now. Though initially I had no idea as to how exactly I would be able to use them, it was the sheer fascination for these materials that encouraged me to continue the collection. In an artist’s camp held at Ravindra Kalakshetra, Bangalore in 1995, I incorporated this kind of packaging material for the first time in my work. It was a decision taken on the spur of the moment. But later I lost track and didn’t know how to go about using the materials, but nevertheless I continued to collect. It is only in the last couple of months that all the elements have fallen in place taking a definite shape. The experience that I acquired when I designed the interior walls of a billiards parlor recently had some valuable things to offer.  An interesting phenomena there was the way in which the coloured line I had used as a binding element of the design moved in and out of the recess of the wall gaining astonishing movement. At times it even denied the wall its physicality and transformed it. Perhaps this gave me a clue as to the treatment of the present works.

Several things fascinated me about these ‘non-objects’  (as I would prefer calling them).  Primarily they retain a trace of the form/ ‘object’, which it contained and it is many a time the reverse of the object that was present. Secondly, they can evoke memories of the ‘object’ which they contained. Which means to say that the absence or negation has become central to my work rather than the positive object. I would like to call them ‘non-objects’ because actually in the eyes of a consumer these are not consumables, which is why they were discarded in the first place. I am paying attention to the end part of the production-consumption-discarding cycle of society.  For me, the discarded items are memoirs.

When these ‘non-objects’ are used in my work they are transformed/transported into an art context and change their role.  What was discarded is consumed again. The peripheral has moved within. These packaging materials and other ancillaries of production that were thrown away has been salvaged and enshrined in these works. At this juncture, the temptation to claim subversion, however subtle, will have to be tempered by the reality of facing a mammoth capitalist system, which is adept in appropriating.

In some cases I have converted them into paper mache impressions and utilized the impressions that are in reverse. Molding the ‘non-object’ in paper mache brings in the feeling of distance; the paper moulds are twice removed from the original ‘object’. It also brings allusions and association with the study of fossils which archeologists and geologists do. Each of these works can also be thought of as museumising a relic that was excavated from the ruins of an urban habitat. Which reveals in an oblique way the consuming pattern of an urban dweller.  They also have relation to the industrial/mass production of my times.  Together they construct a virtual diary of consuming habits of my environment.

These ‘non-object’s are related to our way of living and my urban context in one way or the other. It is as if an intimate inventory has been maintained. I would like to emphasize that it has a strong personal note, as these packaging materials were discarded as a result of my consumption or somebody familiar to me. The packaging covers of various brushes, color tubes I have painted with and their containers as well as corrugated sheets/blister packs I have wrapped the paintings in, wrappers of cakes, tooth brushes I have used, pens and runners of toys gifted, the stiff board in which a shirt was packed, the floppy diskette which once contained images of my works, cigarette packs and beer bottle crowns - the list is endless. Even a few hours of wandering through the enchanting maze of the Sunday market, where discarded objects of the city find their way, has added quite a few interesting elements to my work

The painting on/in the ‘non-objects’ is what transforms them. Though the works here have the feel of a high modern abstraction work, it is only a camouflage.  The core is the ‘non-object’ itself.  Without the ‘non-object’ the work will fall flat. Here the act of painting is an act of redemption.  A redemption of the ‘object,’ a reversal of the consuming cycle. Painting also helps to bring in a sense of homogeneity to the disparate ‘non-objects’ being used. It is as if the ‘non-object’s have been doused, dipped in colour and transformed from a state of waste. The structural strategy employed in many of these works is two-fold. The ‘non-objects’ that are being pasted follow the formal structure, which lends a degree of orderliness. This orderliness also has in it a resonance of the city. The painted areas follow the informal structure. There is an evident tension in the work because of this difference in approach, but it also brings in a sustained dynamism. The other options would have been a formal on formal - which would have been too static, and informal on informal – which would have been too chaotic.  The degree of this balance between formal and informal differs from work to work. But together as a body of work they stand witness to my times, when consumption has become a core activity, above all else. Abetted by powerful mass media and fueled by growing information technology.

Shifting periphery

Ravi Kashi, Works 1999

By RaviKashi