'Solo Show of Glass Paintings and Prints'

Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai

Catalogue Essay

- Marta Jakimowicz Karle

It can be interesting, even moving to watch a young artist learn and search for his place among the existent styles, themes and emotional and intellectual inclinations. Often induced by his school, he relies on the work of his teachers, senior artists and colleagues. By studying it and emotionally identifying with it he acquires an ability to compose and express. Gradually he may try first to convey his own moods and fascinations through its imagery and to shape his personal variant of it. With talent and real passion for feeling and understanding the world he may eventually succeed in distancing himself as much as is necessary from the sources of inspiration and to establish an individual aesthetic response to his experience of life. RAVI KUMAR after encounters with two art institutions in Bangalore, with Baroda and New Delhi's Garhi, appears to be passing through the stage when the accumulated influences have been absorbed, understood with certain seriousness and a little played with. The artist works a lot, as if impatiently but lightly. Rather than perfecting single important images he evokes general moods combined from many quickly done and related pictures. Some traits of his work indicate that he should proceed towards a more mature phase.

The earliest paintings had an intensity of arbitrary, nice colours which bound backgrounds and smoothly synthesized human silhouettes into an atmospheric togetherness. A degree of stylization gave way to a looser but more complex texturing and a sense of emotive links between people treated with a gentle expressionistic touch. Ravi Kumar soon developed a liking for drawing-based graphic techniques. Among the mainly etchings and lithographs one can find a few instances of soft images from direct reality where the arrangement of things invests them with a symbolic meaning or enhanced expression. The latter characteristic increases along with the concentration on the figure detached from its environment. The artist strives to heighten the expressive potential of the human face and body either by heavy texturing of a compact, basic shape or, more frequently, by subjecting it to a fairly violent distortion, after which he seems to be observing with an intimate absorption what happened. Ravi Kumar's line has a quantity of coarseness. Its tense splitting can be harsh but it has a streamlining capacity and a touch of rough realism which bring some tenderness. The effect is that of a study on undefined brooding states. A sense of physicality is aimed at too. Sometimes a work may resemble an exercise but often it becomes evocative. Contact with Baroda weighed here recognized in the new way of relating and integrating the figure with its background. With a premeditated looseness and non-chalance lines as though approximate now the awkward and generalized but sensual figures. The lines and the paper intermingle in a rather painterly play of tonalities emphasizing contrasts of dark and light areas. There is an indication of tactile togetherness among human bodies and emotions, of an immersion in the surrounding ambience and the natural world. The motif of the ominous and violent beast seems to threaten the human but also to impregnate it. Back again in Bangalore Ravi Kumar did several paintings on glass. The medium, although not attempted before, continues the distinct spirit and visuals of Baroda. The line, clearly visible over the attractive, slightly decorative pigments, must have been the reason for choosing glass. It also makes for a link with the graphics. The glass paintings speak again of the murky, ugly, aggressive sides of our reality embodied in the beast. They show human vulnerability, desires, fascination with nature or just tangible felt mental states. The cerebral character of this approach is seen in such Baroda motifs as circus-like antics or winged angels descending on the violent earth. There is an element of theatre and allegory too with legendary personages from western myth and art. General pronouncements on the human condition and essential concepts are formulated with awareness of their importance but also of their acceptability on the art scene. One trusts that soon the artist will be able to face both raw realities and ideas or metaphors much more on his own.