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Artist Profile2
A peep into Prasad Raghvan’s ‘Post-Poster Art’
Prasad Raghvan’s keen interest in appreciation of cinema, film-making and designing of posters coupled with his background in advertising has resulted in a unique art practices that blends finer points of different domains. The artist lets out his aesthetic and political voices, applying his imagination, innovation and interpretations, in the process. Not bound by any particular technique, he looks to break personal ground, by mixing up an array of styles and media including the internet, digital photography, typography, photocopies, charcoal etc.

Originally from the advertising world, after working with several leading ad agencies, he gradually started making posters - an organic expression of his love for cinema. His poster on Hitchcock’s birds won an award at the Cannes and also British design & art direction. As is evident, he is more driven by the title than the content of the film. Titles that leave scope for rich visual interpretation, such as ‘Knife in the water’ prompt him to imagine and interpret the meaning and theme of the film.

In his work ‘Decalogue’, Referencing Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski’s ten-part film cycle about the Ten Commandments, there were ten life-size figures with attire that revealed their professions, all standing against a wall with their faces covered by scarves and their hands in front. It seemed as if they were all standing together to face an identification parade. In the video just opposite them, an interrogation was taking place. He essentially lets out his aesthetic and political voices. Keen to experiment and always open to newer ideas as well as influences: the Bauhaus roots, the stark typographic elements, almost mathematical grid, black & white photography etc.

Born in 1968 in Kerala, Prasad Raghvan completed his graduation in graphic design from the College of Fine Arts, Thiruvananthapuram (1987- 91), and then underwent an apprenticeship with his elder brother, also a graphic designer and artist, for a year and a half. In 1992, he joined in MAA Bozell as a visualizer at their branch in Kochi, and subsequently moved to the New Delhi office. A couple of years later, he joined the ranks of Contract Advertising as Art Director, putting his skills and imagination to good use, to conceptualize catchy ideas. At this point of time, the talented yet untapped (poster) artist in him discovered Federico Fellini, serving as a major source of inspiration.

This apparently was the starting point of his enchanting passion for cinema. He moved to O&M in 2000, when he started working on ad films and the occasional documentary, to explore the medium. 'One+Plus Gold', was his first ad film directed and shot with a low-cost handycam. It won him an award at the New York Advertising Festivals & Asia Pacific’s 'The Work' Awards. After moving to Saatchi & Saatchi, he spent his creative energies on films with tight budgets, albeit unusual scripts. He regularly won awards for his brilliant conceptualization and execution, including One Show, New York (Design 2003); Cannes Lion (Films, 2004); Cannes Lion (Poster, 2005); British Design & Art Direction (Poster, 2005).

Going a step further in his cinematic quest, he started compiling a library of international movies, opting to leave Saatchi & Saatchi to launch a film club, ‘a:door'. The short-lived experiment nudged him towards the field of poster designing, inspired by critically acclaimed films, their timeline and histories. The core idea was to manipulate their textual, visual and contextual codes for a renewed perspective and purpose. The referential points served just as pointers to build a sense of affinity and familiarity with the referred, instead of publicizing the 'product', and rather to create a parallel dialogue amid viewers with both intended and aspired histories.

Spotting the talent in him, Bose Krishnamachari included his works in a group show courtesy the Guild Art, Mumbai in 2007. Mumbai based Gallery BMB conceptualized by the renowned artist-curator presented the first solo show of this upcoming and talented artist in 2010 that provided an insight into his personal aesthetic. He had borrowed the title from cinematic terminology, even tilting the jargon (calling it a ‘Tilt Shot’, he calls it, ‘Shot-Tilt’), playing out both in the mundane and the transcended. The idea of desire and false promises was explored in the series, as he stated, “We live in a society that constantly generates desire. We’re made into consuming subjects. There are a lot of false promises around us, which make us voracious consumers. The result is garbage and guilt. My idea is to analyze and understand desire and false promises through the creation of ‘false icons’ and the images of garbage, sin and guilt.”

His unique body of work has been widely exhibited at venues and events like ‘Dialogue’, W+K EXP, Delhi (2011); ArtGwangju, South Korea (2010); ‘The Trojan Works’, 1x1 Contemporary, Dubai (2010); ‘Everywhere is war’, Bodhi Art, Mumbai. ‘Freedom to March’, Lalit Kala Akademi/Ojas Art, Delhi (2010); Under The Banyan Tree’, ESSL Museum, Vienna (2010), ‘Public Enemy Number 1’, Exhibit 320, Delhi (2010); ‘Generation in Transition’, Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw (2010); ‘Indian popular culture & beyond’, Alcala31, Madrid (2009); ‘Video Wednesdays@ Gallery Espace’, Delhi; and ‘Everything’, Willem Baars Projects, Amsterdam (2008);

On the one hand, driven by his fondness for international cinema, and on the other hand, his deep interest in the aesthetical and ethical foundational structures spelt by the universal philosophy propagated in the religious texts like Bible, Prasad Raghvan’s work can also be treated as an independent enquirer’s proclamations, which make ‘religious allegory as a succinct secular process of sociological inquiry into our greed and annihilistic relationship with nature’. His fascinating film posters, which combine image and text, encapsulate the essence of a broader statement and deftly deflect the core narrative to a new layer of meaning.