October 20, 2012


Feature by Sarmistha Maiti

Studio Art, New Delhi, is currently presenting Ritu Kamath’s solo exhibition titled The Wittiness of a Vanity Fair (October 13 to November 14, 2012) in their gallery space in Lodo Sarai, New Delhi. MOA reproduces the essay by Sarmistha Maiti written for the show.

“Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air
and feather canyons everywhere, I’ve looked at cloud that way.
But now they only block the sun, they rain and snow on everyone.
So many things I would have done but clouds got in my way.
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now,
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall.
I really don’t know clouds at all...”
—Joni Mitchell

The innocence of the childhood fantasies and the poignant realities of life can never go hand in hand. At least this is what one learns as one grows up to become a more rational human being. Everything in life starts getting determined according to specific parameters. But there are the exceptional few who refuse to look at life on the basis of such stringent rules. Though they do not rebel but their inherent innocence is a far greater threat to the society at large. It has lost the vision of its very existence and views everything through a dark glass, yet vouches on being prudent, realistic and pragmatic. 

“The Wittiness of a Vanity Fair” – A solo exhibition of Ritu Kamath’s artwork is the artist’s personal take on the nature of human behavior as an individual grows up and sheds off the innocence of childhood. One may put on a camouflage holding a fake smile and also live a life that’s not one’s own but that maintains a position in society that is too feeble and futile.

Ritu’s works invoke a journey of an individual who has come across many different shades of life, yet she holds her head high and is bold enough to laugh out loud and strip-off the masks of the pseudo-intellectuals through her sense of wit and humor. She can be both subjective and objective in creating this humor and deals with different aspects of emotions in a sensitive manner. Ritu creates allegories and parodies from real life impressions – sometimes from the hype of highly intellectual gatherings and sometimes from the flamboyance of the Page 3 parties.

Her major area of interest has been observation of human expressions, behavior and the intrinsic manipulative nature of man to fix things just to fulfill his own petty desires. Through the interpretation of these expressions Ritu sets a dialoging space with the imagery of her works where either the faces are human and bodies are of animals or objects or vice versa. It remains open for the viewer to laugh at her works or pass comments on them; yet somewhere the viewer is bound to introspect and undergo a process of facing the latent inner-self as if standing in front of a mirror and at the same time realizing the wit of the concept.

It has been a natural journey for Ritu to be with fantasies and fairytales. As a child she was totally  drenched in her world of dreams, magic and fantasies. When she now creates the trail of her characters as visual fairy tales on a canvas or paper; she plays with wit, fun, magic and humor at the same time. The element of sarcasm is blended subtly as an undercurrent of her narrative.

The Peacock Woman in one of her works has emerged out of the observation and interpretation of how women may pretend to belong to an extraterrestrial space and don’t have their feet grounded.  It is a subtle satire on the vainglory of snobbery. But of course not an attack! The work speaks for itself maintaining the fairy tale fervor, giving an opportunity to the audience to stand before the canvas and experience a sense of joy and humor.

Creating puns through visual imagery is Ritu’s forte. She has thus used Chiron the Centaur as an image signifying power, wisdom and goodness, The Cockerel as a pompous man suffering from a Napoleon Complex and the Little Mermaid as a woman who wants to float freely without any burden of constructs, etc.

She has devised the concept of a composite identity through the creation of a cow-woman in a work that is titled ‘A tale of Surabhi ’. On one hand Surabhi or Kamadhenu the cow is worshipped and signifies fertility and on the other hand, Cow is a remark of dumbness, and stupidity. Ritu’s take on this entire subject is a critique to either of the above stakes that signify a woman to be the Devi or the Drowned.  She also sometimes considers herself as an inanimate object such as a chair or any other piece of furniture and plays with the immune nature of lying in the same position for years automated to function only in a particular way.

This show comprises of both big-sized canvases and small-sized mixed media works. The canvases have been done in a combination of acrylic and oil where the plastic quality of a finesse texture is on the background in acrylic but the detailing of faces and limbs are in oil to provide a realistic feel. In addition Ritu has used her sense of patterns with a lot of minuteness to create the background of her canvases as a dream plane in complementary colors. She enjoys the exposition of her fantasy world as things start falling in the right place in the picture plane.

In the smaller works, she has created a series of sequins on paper. Keeping her created motifs of the Cockerel, Surabhi, Indrani, Chiron, etc intact, she arranges the sequins in a pattern as a background and the motif lies as a patch of a different colored sequins on the top. In bi-color these miniature works in a series build up a formal pattern and can invoke many tales of a fairyland.

With the belief that life is innocent, and it is us who makes it complicated, the artist feels that  making life complex is a part of human nature. A nature that strives to get more and more complicated and there is no boundary to this limit. It thus becomes nothing but a vanity fair of fake identities. Ritu enjoys the process of evolving every moment as an eternal child. She draws a balance between innocence and rationality, which takes us back to the evergreen song “Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell with which I began this essay.

The last stanza follows:

“Tears and fears and feeling proud to say “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds, I’ve looked at life that way.
But now old friends are acting strange, they shake their heads,
They say I’ve changed.
Something’s lost but something’s gained in living everyday.
I’ve looked at life from both sides now;
From win and lose, and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all.”

Feel the music of Ritu Kamath’s works with a glee on your face. Experience her sense of wit and humor remembering that fairy tales don’t grow old, they just evolve…and life really is beautiful!


Tinkerbell, Oil & Acrylic on Canvas, 48 x 48 in

The Cockerel, Oil & Acrylic on Canvas, 48 x 48 in

Indrani, Oil & Acrylic on Canvas, 48 x 48 in

Surabhi 1, Oil & Acrylic on Canvas, 24 x 36 in