'Solo Show of Paintings'

Venkatappa Art Gallery, Bangalore

Catalogue Essay

- Srinivasa Murthy K.S.

The art scene in Karnataka has qualitatively altered for over a decade. These changes are easily evident to even those who stray into one of the art galleries in the city, occasionally: we have today more number of young artists with remarkable creative energy than before. The self-complacence and a lack of daring that prevailed for decades in the state art scene are gradually being replaced by a new adventurous spirit. Not that such daring was totally absent earlier: the experimental bias that dominated the works of the generations of 60's and 70's was adequately strong to drive them to explore several mediums and modes of perception. But even the most serious and imaginative of them could not justify these explorations in their works, quite often: it was a sheer enthusiastic reaction to the prevalent perceptive modes at the national level in terms of certain visual elements like texture, colour' or forms that dominated their works at the cost of a specific view of life. No wonder, the works of a good number of these artists have ended up today as mostly decorative, without a functional thrust to make them visually or otherwise valid to the changed sensibilities.

Against this general backdrop, the generation of artists after the 80's merit serious attention on at least two counts: their consciousness of the need to be 'functional' in the adoption of new forms and the consequent struggle with the chosen medium. These seem to be leading to what may perhaps be termed as 'compositional subversions' of various kinds. These subversions not only involve direct questioning of the efficacy of the conventional picture frame (in tune with similar efforts at national level) but also a 'rejection of merely `readable' figures and images. Though most of the time these works do retain certain conventions of representing the visible world, there are also several forays into other aspects of the visual language. It is this serious effort to meaningfully articulate a thought or feeling that marks out this generation in a way as new and daring. Ravikumar Kashi's works hold out a great promise in this general context.

Ravi's method involves mainly a kind of direct visual provocation. No wonder it captures the viewer instantly. The content unfolds slowly through a maze of apparently disjointed forms. As for the artist the method allows him to break away from the traps of usual mental sets that emerge out of every phase. The recent works illustrate this point effectively: Ravi's earlier works, particularly paintings suffered from a certain monotonous flat picture space. Even the figures were rather pictorial props to the composition by evading the challenges of other elements like space. Whereas in the works on show here there is a much closer attention to space at various levels : the superimposition of disintegrated parts of one or more of his own earlier works into a whole has helped to create a sense of' deep space. At other levels; the new perceptive mode suggests interesting possibilities of dramatic changes in tone : in most of these works the recurring transparent wash-like space (in acrylic white) suggests a stream of bright light. While this merely suggests a transparent smoky screen in some, it helps to intensify the feeling of deep interior space in the others. All these are certainly seminal attempts at shaping a distinct vocabulary. Evidently, there are specific feelings or thoughts struggling to surface from these constructs. Generally, these works fall in line with his other earlier works in projecting a sombre, contemplative mind at work : His prints and paintings bring to mind the thematic concerns of an important contemporary sculptor and print maker, S. Shyam Sunder. It is in Shyam Sunder that we find an intensely felt experience dominantly influencing the look of his figures, which are treated in isolation in his sculptures or exclusively in his prints to effectively bring out a type of social victim. In the works on show here we are more specifically reminded also of another remarkable though not so prolific an artist of the state, Chandranath Acharya. It is the visually stimulating hide and seek of a transient urban life that we directly confront in Chandranath's works. Whatever the precedents one may try to trace, if only for a proper perspective, Ravi Kashi's work display an admirable creative strength. But understandably every new excitement is wrought with its own dangers of certain vagueness and incoherence in communication. The chaotic or excessively worked out motifs here reveal more of the excitement of a new visual mode rather than an effective perception. The white transparent washes or the vertical grid like forms that recur in some of these works are not functional always, in the sense we have already had occasion to specify here. Similarly the metaphorical possibilities of putting together disjointed parts in one composition are hardly explored, though most of the works do end up as stimulating visuals.

In any case, Ravi Kashi merits our serious attention for the sheer courage with which he has been respecting his creative instincts consistently. The creative freedom with which he keeps altering his own modes of perception and representation in his prints, paintings or the recent works on show here reveal this strength directly.