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|Order in Chaos
(article by Marta Jakimowicz-Karle in Deccan Herald, March 20, 1995)
A visitor to Ramesh Gandhis photographic exhibition at the Venkatappa Gallery relishes its sensitivity. The artist's aesthetic world is a poet's world, not because some of his poems have been displayed among the prints, but because of the atmosphere and subtlety of the images.
There is a kinship between the pictures and the verses in the refined simplicity underlying the broadly related thematic ranges. The photographs, however, are purely visual in the sense that they never illustrate a meaning assumed beforehand. Rather they appear to reflect the state of the artist's mind as he contemplates what is around him. He looks quietly but intently, intimately and close into things whole, remote and widespread. He looks at things immediately before him, at their fragments, at their nuances, changes and strange manifestations, when they interact in varying conditions and modes of light and shadow.
He seems to meditate, as if in pleasurable melancholy, on a scene, till it allows a fine composition to be extracted, and till it discloses its inner character. The sights of course, do not just reveal themselves, but work in unison with the artist, who captures a specific moment and a chosen balance, in order to express what he has discovered of its nature, and of his perception and feelings. He simultaneously opens up to the directly visible and questions or tests and steers it delicately towards a meeting ground where the direct blends in a mutual dependence and influence with the artist's imagination and aesthetic sensibility.
Then, the photographed reality suggests implications beyond itself which is usually emphasised by the titles, though it would have been intuited anyway, in most cases. Even the highly manipulated pieces do not fall into mere formalism, or lose a base in the actual, and always retain a reference. Thus, their lyricism and more concrete evocations gain strength by anchoring their most generally treated emotions and aesthetic joys in our experience. Eventually, as happens only in good art, the viewer's delight contains also grateful wonder at an enhanced recognition of reality as interpreted by the artist.
The harmony found in the ordinary and among chance leads to what the poet calls his pattern: ..A pattern is/ Even if/ Asymmetrical/ Intrinsically / An order/ In chaos/ Like a vagabond breeze/ playing upon/ the responsive strings/ of a caress-hungry leaf/ to explode/ into rapturous fragments/ of an unforgettable/ symphony." The piece 'Barred' may serve as an example. In a mess of shabby buildings and their dissipating rhythms, it finds a tentative balance which makes all the directions hold together in response. Through this it also captures the specific charm of the place with the human presence behind it. And it is the ability to make the raw human surface over the aesthetic that impresses most in the best of Gandhi's work.
His architectural photographs are particularly successful here, be it a cool, nearly geometric abstract composition: a rough, palpable image; a studied, lyrical equipoise; an emotion-loaded appropriation of historical sites or an unusual angle which emphasises the sense of the inhabitants' spirit and of the structure. Gandhi's choice of subjects may not be very original, his worth being subtlety. Thematically and in sensibility he combines the West and India.
His landscapes can bear gentle allusions to painting or graphic, to faded photographs and Sino-Japanese washes, yet this happens through the means characteristic to his medium. They can also contain evocations of cosmic occurrences and inner turmoil. The artist, perhaps, searches for an underlying unity of the world, since he notices in something aspects of other things - a sense of carnality in flowers and shells, stylistic curlicues in a dry leaf, a steely architectonics in palm fronds or a celestial orbiting in coarse boulders.
Frequently he reaches such suggestions by coming close into the blossoms, arranging them and subjecting them to a balance of dynamic and suspended illumination and shade, to sharpening and haze. Sometimes, however, he enlivens and inflames inanimate objects like crumpled paper and drapes or ice, coaxing them to speak of the soul. Sporadically, he halts to observe the humorous hidden in unexpected associations which humble utensils can arouse. Still, he enjoys more the Poetic moods born of contact between normal things, like between a small fruit and a vase mutually attracted in tremulous, misty light and shadow patches.
If one is to mention the weaker aspects of Gandhi's style, it would be his occasional excessive elegance and a dose of pretty conventionality, found for instance in a baby's portrait. This rewarding show is on till March 26.