Any Moment Now

Any Moment Now

Gallery: Solo Show at Air Gallery, London.

Essay Title: Sannidhi - The art of Proximity

Author: Savita Apte

Year:  2007

Ravikumar Kashi’s work is emblematic of what has been termed post-modern. Artists who allied themselves to modernism were unabashedly self reflexive, Ravikumar, on the other hand, like other post-modern artists, seeks transcendence in a fragmented material world. In this quest, he has taken the device of pastiche, which is central to modern art, and made it both the form and content of his work.

The artist, like many of his generation has turned to found images as an inspiration for much of his rich visual vocabulary. In appropriating scenes from advertising, design and popular culture Ravikumar Kashi creates an assemblage of mixed cultural references. These are often Eurocentric or rather Americentric cultural icons as the world of popular Indian culture is now dominated by Americanisms and visual and vocal slang. The appropriation from a medium which itself is known for appropriation is what creates and maintains the tension in his work

Ravikumar’s art reflects the ongoing modern urban preoccupation with the problem of reconciling one's individuality with the constant onslaught of images and ideas from the outside, media-dominated world. In this exhibition, of nine cast paper works and eleven paintings entitled Any Moment Now, Ravikumar draws from this world, using the very same cinematic techniques that are employed in the making of advertisements: quick edits and the surprises of super-imposition. His deliberate juxtapositions create another milieu, in which the original contexts of the images and styles recede, often becoming mere palimpsests and the resultant images appear to float in a world of simultaneity and equilibrium Although his work is a testament to the rapidly changing urban landscape of his native Bangalore, it does more than passively record social realities; rather it gives them meaning through a recognition of the differences between signs. These new meanings cause an important change of perspective. The series in Any Moment Now captures this perspective: of creating and managing the expectations of desire; the attitude of rejecting a dissatisfying present existence in favour of a better, imagined future just round the corner…any moment now.

Ravikumar Kashi’s deconstruction of familiar images demands the rethinking of representation. It further stresses the ambivalence or hybridity that characterises the site of juxtaposition: a liminal space in which different meanings are articulated and may also take on imagined constructions. In fact meaning is formed in between or in excess of the sum of its parts. In this sense the boundary becomes the place where something new begins. In Ravikumar Kashi’s work it becomes the place that mediates relative meanings and a site where new meanings come into existence Ravikumar’s primary concern has always been the production of meaning and the ways in which images become imbued with meanings. The series of paintings exhibited highlights the difference between communication, which is a more or less straightforward process and interpretation, which is dependent on each viewer’s pre-conceptions, experience and knowledge and deliberate artistic intervention and manipulation.

The images for these works come from a variety of sources including magazines, stock photographs and internet text and visuals. Ravikumar puts these images together in a painting the way another artist might create a collage using scraps of paper. His paintings comprise what appear to be randomly juxtaposed images, or images painted on top of each other. His subject matter tends toward the popular and the gratuitous but at no point can he be referred to as cold or cynical . Some of the visual images are collaborative for example Bite and Think, where the apple half appears to have been cut by the knife in canvas on the right. Others are openly conflictual as in Pinnacle, or Any Moment Now. At all times there is a deliberately ambiguous combination of original and appropriated imagery. The juxtapositions of these vignettes evoke filmic montage in which visual elements are arranged to produce meanings not otherwise present in individual images. Subverting the recognizable, and allowing the familiar to become strange through odd juxtapositions, details and illogical compositions as for instance in Wish, Kashi’s compositions present certain directions but ultimately leave the viewer to develop meaning out of the layered images and disjunctions.

Although the images he uses are disparate, there are several concerns that manifest themselves repeatedly through his works. Prime among them is the notion of power and control in urban Indian society and alongside it, the politics of gender. There is a sexual undercurrent which runs through most of his works and the tension between male and female is explored openly in works like You Know You Want It where allusions to the linga and yoni are obvious and more obliquely in Feel the Power and Bite and Think.In these paintings, the narrative conventions which have been the mainstay of Indian art through the ages are subverted and indeed, any narrative that exists arises from chance hybrid interactions and juxtapositions. Further, recognising that narratives lose their origins in the myths of time, Ravikumar has employed certain icons which he hopes will date the works as he predicts that in the future these icons may disappear from use or be used to signify something completely different. Thus hyper links, sand timers and forward and backward movement arrows are introduced in unexpected locations so that fragments of the painting appear to be directly appropriated from the internet and await artistic manipulation.

Although he appeared on the art scene in the nineties, Ravikumar has been exploring this present strategy since 2000. A short stint in Glasgow in 2002 sharpened his perception and interest in visual imagery and what happens with images and it was post Glasgow that the manipulation of the visual language and its uses become acute. In addition, Glasgow afforded him the paper making techniques which he uses in his cast paper works. The cast paper books build a layered narrative in a diary format where the text is digressional and tangential and the choice of image and text highlighted owes as much to chance as deliberate intervention. Ravikumar himself has always kept a diary and like many urban diaries it has always been written in English; a testament to the displacement of the vernacular. However, looked at from another angle, urban Indian English which is in itself a hybrid has become a vernacular. It becomes the perfect vehicle to address the aspirations of an urban middle class.

The choice of this hybrid language is matched by the medium of cast paper. Paper which in and of itself has a fragile quality is perfectly nuanced to deal with the relationships between two people. Is that You? for instance is about two people who meet after a long time. Who have that sense of knowing each other and not knowing. It is this slippage between knowing and not knowing that Ravikumar explores and extrapolates. An intimacy of historical knowing combined with the strangeness of the unknown, of the here and now. He exposes the sentimentality of an archival connection which is juxtaposed with the non connection of the present. Above all Ravikumar is a pictorial conversationalist, exploring the intangible relationships between subjects and their depictions. Finally, his paintings and cast paper books are visual events that privilege the primacy of seeing and with it the art of communication and interpretation in our ever changing fast paced modern world.

Any Moment Now

Ravi Kashi, Works 2007

By Savita Apte