Carting memories

In his zeal to revisit his past, artist Ranganath Krishnamani’s rendition of pushcarts is creating memories for all of us and documenting lost ways of life, writes SHAILAJA TRIPATHI

July 04, 2016 05:13 pm | Updated October 18, 2016 12:42 pm IST - Bengaluru

A pushcart by the artist in digital medium

A pushcart by the artist in digital medium

Kitschy, colourful, happy and alive. That is how Ranganath Krishnamani’s rendering of pushcarts are. The young designer grew up experiencing the old world charm of one of the oldest localities of Malleshwaram. The pushcarts were an inextricable part of the landscape then.

The street vendors would arrive with their niche wares — venis, choicest of fruits and vegetables, peanuts, elaneeru (tender coconut water), bangles, toys and what not, placed systematically in the little space available. They knew each and every resident of the colony and vice-versa. But then this world started to disappear and before it vanished completely, Krishnamani decided to capture it digitally.

Krishnamani embarked on this project with Hanumanthappa, who has been selling tender coconut water for last 15 years in J.P. Nagar. The portrayal is realistic. While there aren’t people, there are subtle hints of the human presence, like the scarf or the lemon and chillies to ward off the evil eye. “I don’t know how he has kept at it for 15 years, what motivated him to continue with it for such a long time. We get bored so fast but their commitment is admirable,” says the artist, who passed out of Chithrakala Parishath in 2000.

He feels it is easy to strike up conversations with them. “The problem lies in us, we bracket them as outsiders. We think they know nothing, but they know more about their immediate surroundings than us.” The artist has made six pushcarts till now and is working on four more — guava seller, flowers and vegetables on a pushcart and even a knife sharpener. The inspiration for the fifth one came from our visit to Russell Market for the photo shoot. He instantly took a liking for Zeeshan’s pushcart that boasted a heap of rusks from Madhya Pradesh. “Look at how Zeeshan spoke to us confidently and in English. He even gave it to us to eat. Would a shopkeeper in a mall do it? No.”

Krishnamani tells us that he isn’t drawn to every cart, he comes across. It needs to connect with him through memory, colours and form like the bhel guy in Malleshwaram, or the sugarcane seller. He has also done Gangamma’s cart in Indiranagar selling food.

“It is amazing how neatly you can pack in everything in such a limited space. My colleagues and I sometimes eat food prepared by her and it is delicious. But she doesn’t make any money now. People usually buy cigarettes and chai and how much money can she make.”

The compositions are consciously kept minimal and basic. The digital medium has also been chosen for a reason. “Watercolours would have allowed me to make it complex which I didn’t want to. I just wanted to create a basic shape with flat colours and let people imagine and recollect. These basic formations in themselves look so beautiful. They are like installations.”

As of now Krishnamani doesn’t know in which direction the project headed but it will grow with every addition. Also a member of Pencil Jammers, Krishnamani heads out to different locations of the city every Saturday and Sunday and sketches. He has done travel postcards of Karnataka which again were digital renderings of heritage sites in Karnataka.

“It was dramatic and a fresh take which is why it did well. I am now working on gold doors in Bangalore. It is interesting how people don’t notice what is amidst us but they get surprised when they see it in an art work. We have stopped noticing,” says Krishnamani, who through these efforts is trying to familiarise us with all that we see and yet we don’t.

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