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Artist Profile2
Arranging objects to provoke spontaneous auguries
Ravi Kashi takes the images from media, advertising world and from frantic city streets as a starting point and subtly subverts the end result. Looking to expand his visual vocabulary, he has experimented in different mediums like prints, glass painting, collage, assemblage, painting, drawing, and photography. He has also participated in several interactive public art projects to widen the scope of his practice.

The endless surge in consumption and the advertisements that feed the frenzy of consumerism is his primary overriding concerns as an artist. Through his practice, Ravi Kashi often focuses on Bangalore, his home city. Explaining how he strikes a fine balance between the real and the perceived, he states, “I’ve been a witness to dramatic changes in the cityscape - getting fast transformed into a facade of glass and chrome buildings. I strive to capture the process behind this transformation and the resultant shift in the people’s aspirations.”

Keen on becoming a painter from early childhood, starting with an art school near his father’s office, he joined Ken School of Art though his family was a bit apprehensive about the move. R.M. Hadapad, P.D. Dhumal, and Akbar Padamsee shaped him as an artist during his formative years. He closely followed contemporary art movements and trends. Artists like Picasso and Francis Bacon greatly inspired him. Ravi Kashi did his B.F.A.(Painting) from College of Fine Arts, Bangalore and M.F.A. (Printmaking) from Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University of Baroda in 1990. He also did his M.A. in English, from Mysore University, and studied handmade paper making at Glasgow School of Art, UK, courtesy the Charles Wallace India Trust scholarship.

A recipient of Karnataka Lalit Kala Akademi (LKA) award thrice and National Award in 2001, he has had several solo shows in India and internationally, including ‘City Without End’, Aicon Gallery, Palo Alto (2007); ‘Desire in August’, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi (2002); ‘Made in Glasgow’, The British Council, Chennai (2002); ‘Tonight at 9 pm’, Gallery Sumukha, Bangalore (2001)’; ‘One is Not Enough’, Glasgow School of Art (2001); and ‘Shifting Periphery’, Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai (2000) among others.

His works form part of several prestigious museum shows, curated shows, and art fairs, such as 'Evidentia', Gallery Sumukha (2009-10); 'Nothing Will Ever Be The Same Again', Hirji Jehangir Gallery, Mumbai (2009); 'The Root of Everything', Gallery Mementos, Bangalore (2009); 'Zip Files', Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai (2009); The Contemporary Asian Art Fair – 2002, Singapore etc. His latest exhibition of works, entitled 'The Game', at Sumukha (Bangalore; Chennai) and Pundole amplify his practice and philosophy as an artist.

The protagonists of his recent works are the Buddha, the body and the chest of drawers – all assembled to form ‘The Game’. Each of them serves him as a screen for the self’s disquietudes: a figure of contestation between carnality and transcendence, between archived sensations and unsettling revelations. ‘The Game’ originates in the artist’s delight in arranging objects to provoke spontaneous auguries. Interestingly, he started photographing the different arrangements, which ultimately became a serious art project.

He reveals, “I’ve been collecting objects that seemed interesting, but without any design. Suddenly unexpected meanings started emerging from the juxtaposition. This naturally led to a process of exploration and expansion of the association of meanings. It’s not to say there was no pattern to the whole thing: the arrangements were planned to some extent but as the shooting proceeded, fresh ideas emerged, new associations popped up.”

This whole process can also probably be termed ‘Photo-performance’ in the sense that it presents itself as a photo documentation of continuously changing installations that happen in the studio space. Apart from his two suites of photographs, ‘Engaging Buddha’ and ‘Meeting in Darkness’, Ravi Kashi presents a timed video sequence, ‘Chest of Secrets’ that gradually discloses the pattern of secret obsessions lying beneath the surface routines of normality.

A curatorial note by Ranjit Hoskote explains how through the objects arranged in ‘Engaging Buddha’ in variable tableaux around a Buddha head, the artist extracts and performs the tensions between time and eternity, the detached sage and the passionate martyr, the ladder to heaven and the feast of sensuous pleasure, the self as animal nature and the self blindfolded against the world’s blandishments.

A dramatic choice of lighting marks ‘Meeting in Darkness’, whereas in his slide-show ‘Chest of Secrets’, he guides us silently through drawers that open to reveal sprouts and spikes, feathers and ripped gauze, a toy tiger and a gun wrapped in newspaper, green glass marbles and stuffed devil’s tails, torn paper and children’s alphabet blocks. He leads us to that deep substratum of consciousness where the roots of play and war, lust and affection, quest and death mingle.

In essence, the artist is more than a silent witness to his times. Ravi Kashi sums up his concerns to state: “I question the language of desire they speak. This along with the awareness of the process of meaning-generation in visual language serves as the core content of my work.”