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Deciphering Ravinder Reddy’s striking heads and fabulous figurative sculptures
Ravinder Reddy is renowned for his extremely striking colorful heads as well as fabulous figurative sculptures of traditional Indian female forms. The monumental sculptures oriented around women are among the most prominent and recognizable creations of contemporary South Asian Art. As a reason, he figures in the list of the country's most celebrated contemporary artists. His wonderful work fuses pop and folk sensibilities compounded with the rich Hindu sculpture traditions. They point to a multi-faceted femininity - at once embracing the contemporary world even while rooted in the past. His huge decorated heads, which carry a heraldic presence, are noteworthy.

The artist started with his monumental heads in the early 1980’s. Modeled with remarkable finesse and skill, they are wide eyed, look out frontally, and seem to have their origin in the earlier periods of civilization, probably ancient Egypt or the early Greek. Simultaneously, his totemic forms owe to Pop Art influences. They are tender and revealing as well as defiant and expectant - an intriguing mix of sculptural forms rooted to our traditions albeit with elements of Andy Warhol's portraits.

Through them, the artist not only initiates a dialogue between traditional Hindu art and contemporary pop, but also reflects upon the feminine image with a reverence for tradition, embracing and appreciating the contemporary world. Many are gilded, flaunting elaborate hairstyles - adorned with umpteen delicately sculpted flowers - giving them the feel and effect of religious icons.

Born in 1956 in Andhra Pradesh, Ravinder Reddy completed his B.F.A. (Sculpture) from M.S. University, Vadodara in 1980 and M.F.A. (Creative Sculpture) in 1982. He secured a Diploma (Art and Design) from Goldsmith College of Arts, University of London, 1983 and did a Short Course Certificate (Ceramics), Royal College of Art, London, a year later. He has also been teaching at the Andhra University’s Department of Fine Arts.

The artist’s works have been shown widely throughout India and internationally, including Sackler Gallery, Washington Dc. (2003), at Walsh Gallery, Chicago (2003). He has participated in several prestigious group exhibitions, including an exhibition of Global Creatures, La Virreinna Exposicions Institute de Cultura, Barcelona, (2002), and ‘India: Contemporary Art from North Eastern Private Collections at JaneVoorhees’, Zimmerli Art Museum, US (2002). This contemporary Indian artist drew critical applause and attention in the US after his exhibition at Deitch Projects just at the start of the new millennium. He has been invited to participate in various sculptor’s camps and workshops. His work features in several prestigious collections like that of Frank Cohen.

Grosvenor Vadehra presented an exhibition of new works by this internationally acclaimed sculptor, in his first solo exhibition in the UK earlier this year. Included in the exhibition were two female nudes sculpted in fibreglass on a grand scale.

A curatorial note stated: “His works would be neither out of place in a modern bazaar nor in an Indian temple. Some are given ordinary Indian names while others are bestowed with the names of great deities. The artist’s nudes, decorated with brightly colored thick car paint & gold gilt, appear to be kitsch personified. However, their unblinking stare and grand, confrontational stance does not turn them into a comic spectacle. Drawing inspiration from the real people he sees around, these wide eyed and self-assured women are akin to the everyday goddesses of an urban age. Some have ordinary Indian names, whereas others are bestowed with the names of deities.”

The artist has been quoted as saying: “My Life force is women – they are the source of growth and life in my work.” They remain the most enduring theme in his oeuvre. Art scholar R. Siva Kumar has noted in an essay to elaborate on this facet: “The women fall short from showcasing themselves as an object of desire; their disembodied eyes - alternately all possessing and unseeing - transform them into formidable apparitions or comic spectacle, which shifts between mocking parody and iconic grandeur.

“His women - with rounded volumes and chiseled details - sporting flamboyant coiffeurs, are ethnic, distinctly common. They are suspended between the rural and the urban, a sort of cultural hybrid. Gilded and painted, the female form is kitsch incarnate. Ravinder Reddy's women are also nonchalant. They storm into metropolitan sanctuaries of highbrow culture with a cool subaltern élan.”

To him transient emotions do not play any role in creating an object. He is more concerned with universally understood forms. A limitation of means (in material, subjects, colors) pushes the artist further to refine it. He is led to the image-making process through the subtle subtraction and addition of raw material while (in the initial process of sculpting the raw form in clay). The form of the sculpture as if dictates itself in that balance, texture, volume and representation all are fused together to unveil a unified whole - a synthetic, ideal beauty.