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Mystery on canvas

Mystery on canvas
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First Published: Wed, Jan 05 2011. 07 52 PM IST

Updated: Wed, Jan 05 2011. 07 52 PM IST
In artist Raghava K.K.’s ongoing show The Last Child in the Woods, a flurry of images juxtapose man with nature. In his surreal mixed-media works, you find either one or maybe two recognizable aspects from the human or natural world, beset by a miscellaneous set of abstract, indescribable things. Which is why, his show is a bit of a mystery on canvas.
Take stock of just a few of his works: the head of a hawk in the mid of leaf-like sketches; a cockroach-like image with butterfly wings; a human head with a bird on top; an ostrich with bespectacled face and human legs; a rhino-like creature with a man’s head; a sheep with half a countenance like a man on the street. These and more intriguing pieces constitute Bangalore-bred, New York-based artist Raghava’s new show. The show raises some intriguing questions: What’s Raghava trying to say? Or, rather, what is he trying to ask?
“With rapid urbanization, urban people are completely cut off from nature. My show is a deliberately whimsical way of re-establishing the human relationship with nature,” says Raghava, who began his career as a cartoonist with a newspaper in Bangalore.
In some senses, he explains that his inspiration for the show was the experience of becoming a parent. “As a parent, I’ve become very aware and conscious of the way we programme our children. It’s what I call ‘container culture’. Meaning, we are constantly building structures and systems that inhibit our and our progeny’s behaviour. Once a child is a born, first we cage him in a crib. Then once he grows up we fence him in a playground, which operates on certain social codes. A playground is supposed to symbolize openness and freedom, but society carries its strictures there as well. As in: what to wear, how your child should behave, what to say, etc. How we raise our children shows how ridiculous we are as adults. The same goes for man’s relationship with nature. Our attitude, say, to pets, is one that humanizes the latter, rather than understanding them as animals per se. It’s humankind’s closeted way of relating to the world. That’s what I wanted to break through,” Raghava elaborates.
His exhibition, he hopes, communicates a child-like perspective on things. “My show is a childish work, for adults,” he quips. “I wanted also to communicate that lost sense of wonder in childhood and try and find a method of communicating that feeling of man’s relationship with the animal world and nature. The show is not meant to make sense… Even I can’t make sense of the works I’ve done. If I can communicate a feeling or create a set of feelings in the viewer’s mind, I think I’d be happy.”
The Last Child in the Woods is on at Kynkyny Art, Bangalore, till 14 January.
rahul.j@livemint.com
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First Published: Wed, Jan 05 2011. 07 52 PM IST