Tonight at 9 PM


Tonight at 9 PM

Gallery: Gallery Sumukha Bangalore.

Essay Title: Tonight at 9 PM

Author: Suresh Jayaram

Year:  2001

An artist like Ravikumar Kashi is a strategic planner making the right choices at the right time, changing stance and language with the demands made by the growing internationalism in the visual art field. He straddles many worlds with ease, every move is calculative and his ability to take risks is uncanny. Despite the familiar repertoire that impresses the viewer, he surprises us with an unexpected body of work and gives a tired mind an eyeful.

Moving from a high modern aesthetic of abstraction that dealt with an urban experience, he pushes its limitations beyond a level of using an expressionistic brush. In the recent works, we see touches of realism that seeps into his vocabulary. The 'Shifting Periphery' has moved into a wider horizon, living in a world of global economics in the cyber city of Bangalore. This cosmopolitan and eclectic population of the city is a microcosmic version of any other city in India. Every product launch is targeted to them as the ideal middle class customer, showered with freebies and goodies, luring them to buy. Ravi Kashi's images are a pastiche from the world of these seductive advertisements that speaks to the common citizen to indulge in excess beyond one's needs and reach. It is a world that sells utopia, sheer bliss, instant pleasure, and happiness. This is a world of make-believe marketed through the media through sensuous images that cajole us to see and buy in a spiritually and culturally empty world.

The visual imagery of the artist is a complex collage of signs, icons, repeated like a mantra seen on television. Here, the couch potato finds salvation watching the soaps that are packed with commercials promising heaven from the fairness cream to how to become a millionaire in a few seconds. This is the fragile dream of everyone who craves for instant success and ultimate bliss - the complete man, ideal holiday destination, food, clothing, home and lifestyle. The artist navigates a twilight zone of abstract expressionism and a local version of Pop art. The massive scale of his works affects us as we confront the violent gestures layered with an assault of texts, images, and objects. He opens a niche in the centre of his compositions. This image is sourced from the world of popular advertisement glossies.

It is neatly cropped and enshrined in a sheet of acrylic. They are images of a boy eating ice cream, a macho leather-clad man standing akimbo, a woman in her sleep, a devotee at the Kumbh Mela are collaged with other fragments with words like ""run"", ""sleep"", ""empty"", ""kill"", ""love"" and ""eat."" They also deal with the large-scale photographs that appear in the print media and the ideas of mass production. The use of the hand is also part of the dynamics he uses - simple graphic techniques like stencils, moulds and other repetitive devices arranged with a conscious graphic precision of a designer. Another set of works is a book of alphabets arranged like sacred manuscripts, with similar intentions in three dimensions.

Belonging to a generation that experiments, improvises, in mixed media and assemblages, which is an eclectic strategy, Kashi's imagery transforms images into two-dimensional motifs or icons and uses it liberally to enforce the image of multiplicity in ironic efficiency. The process of assemblage or collage of a real object is anonymous and the technique is mechanical. This is layered over the surface of painterly abstraction - a tension and a contradiction of visual languages. This prosaic, commonplace illustration or objects are layered over the personal brush-stroke evoked from a very private emotion. This juxtaposition owes much to the history of pop art in the twentieth century. In one stroke/gesture, the artist moves from the local to global, side-stepping the national.

His latest works are filled with generative and fecund images of the media, which reflect the youthful buoyancy of India's unchecked global climb. The viewer is confronted with images that are ""ready-mades"" and are impressions or objects taken from life. We are faced with many questions and dilemmas - is it abstraction or a resemblance? We question ourselves about reality - is life more real than art?


Tonight at 9 PM

Ravi Kashi, Works 2001

By Suresh Jayaram