Ramesh.V’s recent work enquires into a series of spiritual quests of seekers of the divine and knowing of the self. The artist’s lineage can be drawn from the Baroda and it’s figurative representation that located the self in the context of one’s immediate surrounding. And a self conscious enquiry into the question of identity. Earlier one recollects Ramesh’s series of fisherman from his coastal home in Vishakapatnam. He represented their mundane lives and depicted their fragile existence.
In the larger context of Contemporary Indian Art, artists have predominantly used signs and symbols and figurative representation of the iconic forms. The search of the numinous and the spiritual in the material has also led to abstraction. But Ramesh’s quest has taken him to the poems and lives of some of the most significant Bhakthi saints of this land like Karaikalamma (5Th century A.D,Tamilnadu) Akka Mahadevi(12Th century A.D,Karnataka) and Lal Ded(14Th century A.D,Kashmir) ,the 9th century Aandal who seeks Vishnu.They bring in a new dimension to their spiritual quest by desiring the “lord” as the significant other. Here the line between the sacred and sexual is blurred. A physical relationship and Longing for the “lord” is a unique sentiment of this Bhakthi tradition. The body becomes a metaphor and overcoming desire and the futility of human desire becomes a mission, Ramesh is enamored by their poems and has made these texts and their images a part of his work, the imagery triggers their philosophical quest.
“Most of my work is imbued with a deep personal reverence, and hints at areas of faith, devotion and transcendence, but it articulates these ideas in an oblique manner, using voices from medieval poetry and imagery culled from mythology.
I often use allegory because it can allude to my concerns and what I want to express in a more poetic and potent manner. Allegory allows us multiple readings of the image depicted in the narrative.”
Ramesh’s personal quest into the questions about life has taken him to look at others who have been the signposts of Bhakthi tradition in India. Ramana Maharishi in Thiruvannamalai,Tamil Nadu, this sacred town is centered around the mountain called Arununchalam and is associated with many myths and gurus who had inhabited this place and also made it a center of many spiritual journeys. Ramanna was an exceptional being whose radical life and teachings asked the seeker to be silent and “Know thy self”. This has been a critical in Ramesh’s career as an artist. His large series of work is based on depicting this guru, as the artist quotes from many celebrated photographs of the saint and depicts the iconic mountain that is part of the spiritual journey. The mountain is part of the sacred geography of southern India and its nodal point for spiritual seekers. Thiruvannamalai is symbolic of Shiva’s fire aspect and is circumvented with great devotion as part of the living tradition of “theertha yatras”.It home to monks, mendicants, gurus and attract a large local and international community of spiritual seekers who make the ashram an important place.
If Bhakthi is the predominant Rasa the artist employs allegory and Dhavani- suggestion as an aesthetic. His figurative visual language is like a palimpsest of quotes from classical Chola sculpture, popular illustrations and photographs. The visual language of the artist does not illustrate but creates an ambiguity in revealing the content. Ramesh uses stenciling, screen printing, and other printing techniques to achieve his layered surfaces. Overlapping image, text with texture and colour to achieve a palimpsest of multiple visual imagery like with patina. The affect is of looking at ancient murals in lamplight blurred by the ravages of time. Sometimes the imagery is photo- realistic illustration of a garland, an ornate lamp or a bunch of bananas, ripe jackfruit of pomegranate, these become signs and metaphors about body and desire to contemplate.
The work of Ramesh is like a chronicle of many journeys, in the true Advitha philosophical tradition that connects all beings as part of the universe, and believes in humanism, the artist is like a seasoned cartographer or a “bhaktha” who tracks these many journeys. He also invites us to contemplate about the archetypal questions of the meaning life and learn from the wisdom of other who seeks for universal truth.
(All works can be viewed on I)