A newly launched art space in Bangalore, The Gallery at RMZ Ecoworld is hosting a solo show of renowned artist and sculptor Ravinder Reddy from July 8 - September 9, 2017. A showcase in India that comes after a gap of more than ten years, the exhibition includes works that reflect the artist’s influences and explorations during the early, intermediate and recent phases of work. The artist has embraced a distinct path in the representation of female subjects, whether in bodily form, or in elaborately detailed heads. His journey has brought him from the time when, along with other students at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda he experimented with the new inexpensive medium of polyester resin or fibreglass, to his powerful contemporary sculptural installations that are monumental in scale and presence. “Mr. Reddy’s series of heads have less to do with stereotypical ideas of beauty, and more to do with an ageless celebration of a woman’s endurance and fecundity.” Says Julie Walsh, Director, Walsh Gallery. The painted forms have been inspired by both classical and popular art; one can see a profound engagement with the Yakshi figures embedded in Indian sculptural history, as well as Egyptian and Greek sculpture, balanced with interpretations of street culture and popular imagery reflected in the glossy surfaces and rich colouring.
The catalogue text was written especially for the show by Professor Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh, art critic and artist. He comments, “For Ravinder, the engagement with full figures served as a route to understanding the head as the epitome of the spirit of the body. The head then assumed a totally independent entity - having gone through and internalised the quiet dignity of the Benin bronze, the warm physicality of the Kushana-Mathura yakshis and the deep earthy sensuality of the votive village deities and the feisty audacity of roadside icons of urban India. He then sought to instil the subliminal presence of the numinous as he obsessively returned to the head. Growing constantly and assuming different, sometimes immense avatars, these painted heads of women in luxurious colours with every detail of the face lovingly and carefully crafted, began to gain the heightened majesty of icons. Their ever-expanding aura pervaded the sites they were displayed in with a powerful presence of guardian deities.”
For over three illustrious decades, Reddy has been committed to the exploration of formal sculptural attributes of physicality and frontality, translating it within distinct portrayals of female subjects, whether in bodily form, or as iconic heads. “During my studies at art school, I developed feeling for organic forms. My exposure to various cultures – Asian, Egyptian, Mayan, and early Greek – made a strong impression on me in terms of monumentality, strong form, frontality, and overpowering presence. Open sexual sensuality in folk art forms also made a deep impression on me. I incorporate these things in my work. I draw inspiration from my surroundings. My life force is women – they are the source of growth and life. In my work, I wish primarily to re-experience images perceived in everyday life. Adding and subtracting lumps of clay and building up volume enables me, through close physical contact, to grasp the image in sculptural form. Later, I define this image more precisely in paint. I choose fibreglass as a medium because it acts as a neutral material.” He says.
“Three strands mark Ravinder’s prolific output: the formative images of urban women and reliefs of couples- eliciting humour sometimes gentle, sometimes more abrasive; the overtly defiant women in golden pigment and lastly, the majestic heads.” Says Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh in the title essay. In the exhibition, there are portraits of young women in high relief, exuding empowerment and highlighting the context of a rapidly westernising Indian society through their demeanour. The act of painting a sculpted figure transforms the surface and penetrates the interface between imagined and real. It reveals the artist’s combined inspiration from classical, folk and popular Indian art forms. Works from the 90s included the evocative ‘Couples’ series of reliefs, embodying earthy communion between woman and man. Standing female nude forms from later in the decade appear to be clothed in opaque layers of paint, presenting unhesitatingly the natural human body – each sculpture is a goddess of the everyday, the contoured eyes within well-defined heads unconcerned with the world.
His monumental Head series had its beginnings in the mid-80s with experiments in terracotta, epitomised by the graceful ‘Akshatyoni’. The female head became invested with individual, cultural and universal feminine attributes; each one energising the immediate space and confronting the world with a frank gaze. The heads and bodies are modern myths, provocative and attractive in the same breath, concurrently reliving past and present, earthliness and divinity.
The monumental heads appear as witnesses to each other and the fluctuating world around them. They seem engaged in imagined conversations that dwells on perceptions of identity, transcending notions of time and space and enveloping life in all its complexity and subtlety. Each characteristic head suggests singularity and multiplicity at the same time: Krishnaveni is herself, with her jewelled ornaments and intense stare; she is also an anonymous entity representing the entirety of her gender. She is mortal, but can assume mythical and divine attributes.
The use of external colour to propose aspects of identity is deeply embedded in Indian cultural contexts. Paradoxically, the artist’s use of opaque pigment signifies a ‘skin’ that conceals rather than reveals identity. The powerful gaze, the adorned, knotted or braided hair, the firmly curved lips and prominent chin serve to produce dramatic personifications of the feminine.
“I have always been concerned with arriving at an image which is meaningful beyond its structural competence, while incorporating indigenous and contemporary ideas.” says the artist. The women depicted within his sculptures can be overtly sexual and innocent at the same time; they can be challenging and docile, demanding and pliant through the same gaze. They are entities of multivalent interpretations.
The RMZ foundation along with art consultant Premilla Baid have provided a wonderful opportunity for art lovers to engage with a substantial body of work by an artist, in Bangalore for the very first time.
Ravinder Reddy was born in Suryapet village, Andhra Pradesh in 1956. He did his B.A. and M.A. in sculpture at M.S. University, Baroda (1975-82). Between 1982 and 84 Reddy studied in London sculpture at Goldsmith College of Art and Ceramics at the Royal College of Art adding terracotta to fiberglass as his steady medium. From 1984 to 90 he was a faculty member, then assistant director of the Kanoria Centre for Arts, Ahmedabad, eventually moving to teach sculpture at Andhra University, Visakhapatnam. His work has been included in important exhibitions in Asia, Europe and Australia. In 1996 he was in the influential Traditions/Tensions exhibition at the Asia Society in New York. In 2001, the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh held a solo exhibition of his work. His work was displayed at Le Jardind'Acclimatation in Paris in the spring of 2007 and at Economist Plaza in London in the fall of 2008. In 2009, his work was installed as part of The Sculpture Garden Project, Central World Plaza in Bangkok. Mr. Reddy’s work has been collected by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art at the Smithsonian Institution, the Peabody Essex Museum, and the Queensland Art Gallery, among others.