Ace photographer G. Venket Ram shifts his focus from film stars to something as ordinary as kitchen utensils. Result? A series of textured works on canvas that elevates the mundane to aesthetic pieces of art. T. Krithika Reddy zooms in on “Kitch Art”
Old, patchy aluminium cake moulds with traces of cocoa powder in them throw up unusual contrasts. Time-worn iron karandis and strainers with uneven perforations lend themselves to an exquisite play of tones. Buttermilk churners with artistic handles cosy up under the warm light that filters in through a window. A rusty wrought-iron coffee grinder and a tarnished idiappam maker that belong to another era give a textured feel to the canvases.
Do kitchen utensils have photographic potential? The “Kitch Art” series by Chennai-based photo pro G. Venket Ram proves that everyday objects can be transformed into something special by just “seeing” them differently. “I’m a big foodie and love cooking. Whenever I enter the kitchen, I’m fascinated by the play of light on food and utensils. Whether it is the ruby-like pomegranates or the jagged edges of half-a-dozen ladles kept in a holder, the kitchen is a place for compelling compositions,” says the photographer.
Venket deliberately calls it “Kitch Art” because it is an experiment in format as well. “I’ve always wondered why photography is not valued as much as art. The reason, I realised, was because even a good photograph when framed and hung on a wall looked too polished and clinical. So I decided to shoot pictures (35mm format) and print them on huge canvas textures to give them a painterly quality.
In the profession for close to two decades, Venket feels that it’s important for photographers to push boundaries because there’s a glut of images being uploaded every second in the virtual space. “For Kitch Art, I’ve given a different dimension to the theme by focussing on old utensils and appliances sourced from quaint little shops in the city — stuff that today’s generation wouldn’t have even seen,” he adds, displaying a discoloured old stove lit up with coal in one of the canvases that captures an early morning scene in an old-world kitchen.
That he has a keen eye and an uncommon filter of perception comes through in the way rustic-looking porcelain pots in rich green and burgundy soaked in water or tea glasses with steam bubbles and textured ridges are composed for a shot. “Initially, when you start shooting, you get used to a certain kind of lighting, structure and composition and people start recognising you for that. But with time, people start branding you for a particular style and it becomes predictable. I like to redefine my work with every shot. It’s a huge challenge, but it’s rewarding.”
To complement the old-world mood, the photographer used smoky, soot-laden backdrops and rundown plywood as props. “Every image is a visual narrative. A lot of thought goes into composition and lighting that are capable of transforming a dull image into an evocative one.” Famous for his ads, film shoots and calendars, Venket learnt the basics of photography by shooting inanimate objects. “Initially, my work revolved around product shots ranging from food, interiors and automobiles to consumer durables. It taught me to experiment with a range of textures, surfaces and shapes and come up with some technically refined works.”
Kitch Art will be on view from tomorrow till December 24 at Art Houz, Alwarpet.