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Making paper people

Artist Ramani with his art work  Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam

Artist Ramani with his art work Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam

Artist V.V. Ramani tears a small piece off an old calendar and places it on a collage that he is working on. Grabbing the loose paper bits that threaten to fly off, he requests us to switch off the fan. The work studio is hardly ventilated, but Ramani doesn’t mind.

“My work setting is chaotic; there are always a hundred magazines, glue bottles and chunks of paper strewn around. And I’m usually dripping wet by the time I finish,” says the award-winning artist, who is currently exhibiting his works done over the past four decades, on the occasion of his 60th year.

Most of them are abstract representations of the works of great masters: Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’, Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’, Paul Gauguin’s ‘Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?’ and more. “My first work was a reproduction of a Rembrandt. portrait, a photo of which my cousin had sent from the US. I remember trying to translate the exact image using pieces of paper,” recalls Ramani. Over the years, Ramani’s focus shifted from merely copying the works to representing it in a fresh way without losing the “soul” of the painting.

“For example, in ‘Mona Lisa’, I haven’t attempted to capture the exact image by Da Vinci. It’s not the pretty Mona Lisa, and there is no background as such. I have focussed on the smile that the painting is famous for, and given it the feel of the original,” he says. “I can paint a Mona Lisa with a lot of detail, but what is the point? Now, with all the technology of prints and photographs, there is no challenge in reproducing a masterpiece,” he adds.

Artist Ramani's work. Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam

For Ramani, the idea for a collage begins with one random picture. For example, in a work titled ‘Reddappa’s Ganesha’ (inspired by a work of artist Reddappa Naidu), it was a picture of a light bulb. “That formed the head of the Ganesha, and from there I built the image, and included a paint brush to depict Muruga’s vel and a water jug to depict a modak ,” he says. “Unlike painting, wherein you are free to blend the colours the way you want, and create your own shapes, in a collage, you have to translate a predefined image into another in such a way that it all makes sense,” says Ramani, who is an alumni of the Government College of Fine Arts.

Ramani got a taste of this challenge in the second year of college, when he forgot to bring his bottle of colours for the day’s class. “My professor {Alphonso Aruldoss} asked me to fetch an old magazine, tore its pages, and asked me to make art out of it. I found it interesting; it was like nothing I had done before,” he says. Later, it kept coming back to him, even as he shifted fields from textile, product and interior designing, to taking up wedding decorations and setting up stages for dance and music concerts in the city sabhas.

He has also done quirky art pieces with media such as corks and a car’s broken rear-view mirror. What next? “I recently painted Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night over the Rhone’ and Paul Klee’s artwork on silk sarees. I will experiment more with textiles,” he says. The Last Supper, maybe?

The exhibition Impression to Expression: Interface with Paper, is on at 1, Third Street, Nehru Nagar, Adyar, (Near Sri Aishwarya Saris) till April 2.


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Printable version | May 22, 2022 6:17:00 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/artist-vv-ramani-on-creating-art-with-paper/article8413642.ece