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Creative collages

`Images' by artist V.V. Ramani are collages that have been cleverly put together

WIELDING A brush and manipulating colours on paper or canvas had been the active engagement with artists till the 20 Century when Picasso and Braque challenged this orthodoxy and initiated a `synthetic' method, applying objects and detritus of modern life on their canvases instead of painting them. And thus emerged the modern medium of `collage' acquiring a favoured status with many artists, as the show of `Images' by an extremely versatile artist V.V. Ramani proves.

The works on display are all collages and Ramani has craftily and dexterously carved the paper to create images that are life like. Working with collages for Ramani goes back to his days in the early 1970s at the College of Arts and Crafts, where his teacher Alphonso Arul Doss instigated young Ramani's creativity to move beyond painting and create works from scraps of paper and other materials. This marked the beginning of his trajectory and his first project was from cork, a material with which Ramani played, explored and experimented with. Since then the artist has moved on and collage has become his favourite medium.

In the present show, the iconography is varied and is derived from myths and religion meaningfully playing with the iconic image of Ravana, Krishna, Ganesha, Siva and Kali. The 10 faces of Ravana have been interestingly worked out, and unless one pointedly studies the titles they may be passed off as masks. Ramani's sensitive and perceptive eye has choreographed the imagery into factuality concretising on the surface of paper identifiable forms and allowing a reading of them as Kathakali masks, lingams, Krishna and Kaliya, the Ganges, etc. The visual details are not only delightful but there is a subtle lacing of humour, making each frame worth a scrutiny.

A ubiquitous imagery is that of the snake and Ramani perhaps rooted in tradition with these iconic forms cannot escape its presence. The popular association of snakes has been with rain and fertility. In Tantric ritualistic tradition the snake is associated with psychosexual energy. This has reference to `kundalini snake' an image of sexual energy coiled around the base of spine and coils upwards during performance of specific yogas.

Snakes also symbolically represent rebirth since they cast off their skin to become new again. If the snake has to be productively associated with Ramani's use of the imagery then it implies the fertility of his rich artistic ideas, which are fresh in every frame. The medium of collage by its nature prevents repetition and this is where the artist marks his posture of individuation conceiving and configuring with dynamism divergent visual metaphors contextualised within the techno savvy culture. And so it is not difficult to find a CD as pendant, bulb as head, car as snake's head, flyovers as Krishna's peacock feather, etc. juxtaposed with forms as Kathakali faces, chillies, peas and tomatoes to conceptualise his imageries.

The pungency of his hidden agenda, which translates through mythological characters such as Ravana or iconic forms like Kali inscribes the hegemony prevalent in certain cultural and political acts of today.

As one strolls down the gallery space, the visual richness of the forms and shapes coalesces gradually and tightly and the identifiable images get into focus. It is not just shapes and forms that have been intensively studied for their appropriate placement but also the colours have been so orchestrated that they have the singularity of the Indian feel with turmeric yellows sindhur reds, lapis blues, verdant greens and black.

For Ramani the inventiveness and creativity used in collage do not result from experience but from a willingness to experiment with basic procedure.

The show is on at the Lalit Kala Akademi till November 27 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.


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