Tipping the balance: Ravinder Reddy's first major retrospective
Ravinder Reddy’s oversized busts and monumental sculpted works are easily recognisable, indeed from a distance. The veteran artist from Andhra Pradesh, whose works have been prominently displayed in group shows and public displays at several festivals and “art walks”, is now hosting his first ever major retrospective in Bengaluru this week.
“I have never shown in the South before,” says Reddy, “except in a group exhibition here and there.” Although, he adds, “I don’t call this a retrospective exactly, as it is just a survey of work from the last few years.”
One among the crucial aspects, in simple terms of practicality, was the space afforded by the hosts. The show of sculptures, titled Heads and Bodies, Icons and Idols, is being held at the spacious new The Gallery, at the RMZ Ecoworld IT park on the Sarjapur-Marathahalli Outer Ring Road. At many other galleries, the artist admits, “The big sculptures cannot go into the entrance door only.”
Turning the scale
The opening up of avenues, as in various “art walk” initiatives, is a great way to take contemporary works to new audiences, agrees Reddy. “This is not like the ’70s or ’80s,” he reasons. “Things have opened up and the economy has a strong influence on the art we produce,” says the artist, adding, “Unless there are patrons or spaces to exhibit, in isolation, one cannot continue doing large art work.”
It’s a good time to be making public installations, adds Reddy. “Now is the time for artists to think in a larger scale. There is a more positive side now.” The artist says that his experiments are decidedly concerned with aspects of “volume and physicality”, which in turn play into the monumental scale of his creations. “So, slowly, two foot heads started growing gradually bigger and bigger,” explains the artist. Initially, things were challenging, but people slowly started accepting his works. “This is not an overnight exercise, it is gradual,” he reflects. “The scale attracts people towards it. These aspects keep me motivated.”
His intention, however, never is to “over- or under-emphasise” the subject, says Reddy. To him, making art is “like a start-up process,” he explains. “It processes as you grow. When you're younger, your views change, or mellow down, or your perceptions dwell on wider issues – all that is reflected in the works.”
Reddy’s oversized pop-art sensibilities have invoked comparisons, likening him as the Jeff Koons of India, for instance. He, however, prefers to base his creations on his “immediate surroundings”, says the artist, naming Dhruva Mistry as an artist whose works he looks up to. “Of course, I get influenced by looking at various places, while travelling. But I want to be close to my surroundings. That way, people start identifying with the works,” he adds.
The eyes have it
A few characteristics stand uniform among his works. “If I see somebody with a different kind of face, bone structure or cheeks, I try to incorporate that,” says Reddy, explaining that he’s constantly looking for elements to accentuate and make his busts more prominent.
“Our palette is restricted from bright to primary colours,” he notes. “In India, we have different codes of conduct for colours and associations. For celebrations, for instance, we use blue, orange, gold or green.” Reddy, in turn, incorporates such elements to lend added significance to his works.
“Gold is an auspicious colour,” he notes. “It’s like turmeric, which we use in marriages, while in sculptures, the gold makes the light reflect evenly.” Invariably, he ends up picking up physical aspects from around him, says Reddy.
“Not deliberately, but unconsciously, I’ve been looking at people around me. Naturally, that physiognomy comes into the work.” He goes on to explain, “The eyes, cheeks, lips and forehead are the most immediate parts of the figure or face. These facial elements should be sensuous, and when you look at the eyes, you should feel like it is communicating with you,” he enthuses.
While many other artists tend to stylise these elements, he refrains from doing so, adds Reddy. Some of these aspects reference “growth and symbols of organic fertility”. The aspect of voluptuousness, for instance, indicates “potential to grow”, says Reddy, “like the seed of a fruit that is going to burst.”
All said, Reddy is clear that he isn’t about to overreach his ambitions, in terms of size and scale. Though, given an adequate commission, he’d love to create that masterpiece 10-storey tall work someday.
At The Gallery, RMZ Ecoworld. Preview on July 8, 6-8 pm. Until September 9. Daily 11 am to
6 pm except Tuesdays. For details call Chaitra at 99025 86530 or email email@example.com
— Jaideep Sen