Desire in august

Trained as a painter (BFA / College of Fine Arts, Bangalore / 1988) and printmaker (MFA, M S University, Baroda / 1990) Ravi Kumar Kashi (b.1968) has established himself firmly in the Indian contemporary art scene working and holding a series of solo exhibitions since early 1990s.

Interestingly, Kashi has had a distinctly 'non-linear' artistic career. In the catalogue piece for Kashi's exhibition 'City Without End' (ArtsIndia West (now Aicon Gallery),Palo Alto, CA in collaboration with Gallery Sumukha, Bangalore / February 24– April 01, 2007 / Palo Alto, CA), well-known art critic Ranjit Hoskote observed that in the course of his artistic career Kashi had proceeded by a breathtaking series of disconnects, as though no single medium or approach to image-making could hold his restless energy.

"Kashi has worked in graphics, painted on glass and on canvas, addressed the figure and explored abstraction," wrote Hoskote. "He has cherished the collage principle, devoted to moulded-paper sculpture, mobilized assemblages, extended the painterly mandate to the social signaling devices of the T-shirt and the mask; he has engaged in photography and made digital art-works as well as art-works that are inspired by digital-media processes."

Kashi shares his views on art and his own development as an artist with Bangalore-based art writer, Giridhar Khasnis.  Excerpts from the conversation:

GK:Ravi, can you tell something about your constant pursuit of different mediums.

RKK: As an artist, I see myself as a witness of my times, to the ways it is being re-presented in the media and as a witness to the visual culture around me. The experience of an urban artist like me is seldom purely visual. It is almost always mixed with textual messages. I am accosted by messages whether at home or outside. So, if my experience has to be translated authentically into my work, it has to necessarily be a mingling of images and text; each affecting the meaning of the other.

In my career I have never believed in sticking to one rule, one medium, one language. I have always had this curiosity to understand and represent the dynamic life around me through multiple perspectives and mediums. It is also an outcome of a spirit of enquiry I have carefully nurtured since childhood.

If anything, I am mortally scared of getting stuck to one medium or one set of images.I have seen several artists - particularly from the previous generation - repeating themselves endlessly.I respect them for their energy and effort but speaking for myself, the very idea of becoming repetitive is really terrifying.

Recently one of my friends made an interesting remark about my dalliance with several mediums.He said that each time I shifted from a medium; I seemed to reveal a new avatar.He also added that while doing so, I carried some links to my earlier work and medium.So there is disconnect (in terms of medium) and yet a subtle connection in my trajectory of work. His observation was a revelation to me.And I hope he is right!

GK: I have always wondered how artists think and develop their artwork; about their creative challenges …

RKK:I think in any good work of art the meaning or implication is not fixed; the structure and content may lead the viewer in a particular direction but then they also open up possibilities of deeper understanding at different levels. For instance, let us take a picture of a girl and a boy in close proximity. It will convey different meanings to different people. For some it could be love, for others courtship or something else. This ability of a picture to mean different things to different people excites me.

Communication is one continuous theme I have explored in my works. I am intrigued about the way we can or cannot communicate; how we translate our thoughts and intentions into words. I also observe how others communicate, or don't communicate or mis-communicate.  And how all these affect relationships. How can I, in my art, convert all these visually  How can I convey my observations and make them evocative or poetic These are the challenges I pose to myself constantly.

GK: Tell us about your interest in paper works.  How did it all start

RKK:My interest in 'paper' dates back to over two decades.  Even as a teenager, I would collect a set of old newspapers, soak them in water, make a sort of pulp ("rather crudely") and create paper sculptures and artworks from it.  Later, as I grew up and had occasion to view the works of many masters, I was particularly overwhelmed by the 'Wounds' series of Somenath Hore (1921-2006) who created paper pulp prints to poignantly portray themes on human condition and tragedy of the Great Bengal famine.

GK:Your were awarded the Charles Wallace Scholarship in 2001. How did it help

RKK: Yes, I was awarded this scholarship to study handmade papermaking at Glasgow School of Art. I was fortunate to have a guide and teacher like J Parry, who is an authority on printmaking and papermaking in Europe. Technically, I learnt a lot at Glasgow - pulp making, casting, watermarking, glazing, pulp painting, metal stenciling and embossing. Parry exposed me to many concepts, techniques and ideas which I couldn't have possibly learnt in India.  My stay in Glasgow honed up my skills and brought firmness to my ideas. Parry also ensured that my study at Glasgow became an enquiry into the whole process rather than following of a spoon-fed curriculum. At the end of my residency, I had a show of my works on a weekend which was attended by an encouraging group of faculty members, students and other visitors.

Desire in august

Ravi Kashi, Works

By Giridhar Kasnis for SantaFe