Ravikumar Kashi gives his photographs a new avatar by reformulating their meaning within a studio setting using props and light

Within the contemporary milieu of a globalised metro space, artists have chosen to express their ideas in a variety of mediums. Moving beyond the traditional format of a painted canvas or paper, there is a paradigm shift with several leading artists posturing change from painting to processes with new technologies. Within this artistic space emerged various practices and mediums such as photo performance, video, video performance, video installation and inter-media installation. It is within this context of shifting practices that the works of Ravikumar Kashi, a Bangalore-based artist, are situated.

Weaving a tale

In his recent series of photographs titled “The Game”, a photo performance showcased at Gallery Sumukha, Ravi has explored not the real, documentary or the narrative, but the fictional, sourcing inspiration from theatre and cinema to engage with photography as his medium. Ravi, who has a fascination for found objects, has given them a new avatar by reformulating their meaning within a studio setting through manipulation of props and light. There are three suites of works printed on archival paper, titled “Engaging Buddha”, “Meeting in Darkness” and “Chest of Secrets”. The latter is a play of slides that loop continuously. In these works, he has conceptually performed with photography, and in this self-consciously composed fictionalised directorial mode, he is an auteur weaving a narrative. This for Ravi is metaphorically life's journey, layered with subtexts; conflating the iconic image of the Buddha with objects that are open to viewers' interpretation. While the relationships in life form the subject of “Meeting in Darkness”, “Chest of Secrets” is about those secret desires that remain unfulfilled.

Insightful works

These insightful works indicate his obsessive curiosity and sensitive response to the titillating reality of his cultural and social milieu. The collected objects under his directorial mode morph to become dominant tropes. In the works titled “Engaging Buddha”, the Buddha is the protagonist, and objects such as the handless clock, the neoclassical sculpture, the barbed wire and the soft toy animal within a semiotic field can be interpreted at will by the viewer. The Buddha is seen in a game play evoking ambiguity and enigma, offering a reading of his photographs as iconic sans sanctity and translates as metaphors in life played out by time and emotions. Critically, the crux of the entire process in the development of these works was for Ravi the concept of Sannidhi which in traditional Indian aesthetic discourse translates as ‘proximity' or ‘close by' or ‘in the presence'. This could mean the predetermined Buddha in proximity to or in the presence of other variables. Ravi's subjectivity in an exploratory mode interfaces with figurative idiom. The end product displayed on the gallery walls are photographs of studio installations printed on archival paper. But it is inherently vital for this discourse that the process of artistic representation mandated planning of various objects in their juxtaposition, revealed through controlled lighting. To an extent, the planning was mandatory as Ravi was weaving a narrative, but the process also led to accident and chance determining a different directional mode. The element of chance is also a throwback to the Dadaist and Surrealist traditions. A post-modern sensibility is at work converging varied strands of approaches, processes and conceptualisation.

Ravi in setting up his studio installations for photo performance was equally concerned with his lighting, the tool that invests his objects with varied emotions. His understanding of different types of studio lights has enabled him to create the mood he desired.

The show is on at Gallery Sumukha till April 2.

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