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Piecing ideas together

`Made in Glasgow', an exhibition of handmade paper works by Ravikumar Kashi, reflects the artist's experiences in Glasgow. On at the British Council till September 28.

THE EXHIBITION of handmade paper works by Ravikumar Kashi at the British Council is a corollary of his residency at the Papermaking Resource in the Glasgow School of Art. Titled `Made in Glasgow', the exhibition is on till September 28. Having studied painting and printmaking in Bangalore and Baroda, his brief foray into papermaking has resulted in interesting works in new media. While earlier, his paintings and prints were the result of his ideas overlaid on prefabricated surfaces here he creates from within. The making of the paper is in itself an artistic fabrication, which then serves as the expression of his conceptions.

In his paintings of the 1990s, discarded objects and impressions in pulp became part of the image, but now the pulp itself has been transformed into a work of art. The remnants of themes from his earlier paintings such as consumerism and marketing concepts seem to drift into and find a place within his recent works.

Where earlier he spoke of Pepsi, he now speaks of Coca Cola. In his `Desire' series, objects of everyday consumption such as aerated drinks and cigarettes are parodied to project the craving that they evoke in the customer. These desires are everywhere, thrusting themselves upon the psyche of consumers.

`I, Me, Myself' is a series of works which carries the statement further to a more personal level. Everyday products are given a new and personal identity when they are purchased, for they become the consumers' own and are referred to as `my' clothes, `my' glasses, `my' shoes, and so on. But upon serving their purpose they are discarded as trash and deemed irrelevant. Ravikumar tries to delve into this interesting association between products and people.

The fascination for the handmade is ever present these days when machine-made is often cheap, tacky and readily available. The former then seems to connote a niche existence, being unique, labour intensive and expensive. Employing varied techniques of producing handmade paper such as casting, using different moulds, coloured pulp and creating watermarks, he achieves impressive effects with an articulate perception of the relationship between the material and its subsequent manifestation. The coloured areas are created using dyed pulp during the papermaking process as a result of which these areas become an integral part of the final sheet rather than pigments on the surface. The sandwiching process creates translucent imagery of enticing transitory forms, where sheets may be created with layers sandwiched within thinner paper.

A diary of his stay in Glasgow was created in this manner, acquiring a distinctively personal feel, filled with mementoes of his sojourn such as travel tickets and entrance tickets to museums that are enmeshed within the fibres of the sheet. His handwritten script accompanied by photocopy transfers transposed on the paper further accentuates the individualistic nature of what is really a personal document.

Speaking of his art and its apparent lack of `Indian identity', Ravikumar insists that his work reflects the global identity of today.

In keeping with the ideology that national identities are no longer tightly defined, `Who am I?' is a series of nine heads cast in coloured pulp representing nationalism and identity. They are evocative of the painted faces of fans in cricket and football matches. These painted faces speak of a favourite team and not necessarily one's own country. For instance, during the FIFA World Cup 2002, an entire village in Kerala sported Brazilian flags on their faces in support of the team. Nationality in the strictest sense may not be construed in this instance. "If you go to any metro in India, the exposure, experience and thinking pattern is different, almost global. There is nothing Indian about wearing jeans or Woodland shoes, but that is part of what we are today, for it has become part of our identity. We cannot disassociate or isolate those parts of our lives. Similarly isolation does not work in art."

The typical British response to his art was to perceive his bold use of colour as essentially Indian. This stereotypical view of Indian art no longer holds good for we are not living in seclusion, but rather in an evolving global community where distances have become shorter, territories smaller and boundaries blurred. Rather than contrive to seek and represent what is generally regarded as Indian, he feels that introspection and "looking within will reveal the inner self."


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