The Pandemic and Ephemerality
by Poorvi Rajimwalé
Life, believe, is not a dream So dark as sages say; Oft a little morning rain Foretells a pleasant day. Sometimes there are clouds of gloom, But these are transient all; If the shower will make the roses bloom, O why lament its fall? – Charlotte Brontë
Brontë’s poem continues to speak to readers across generations cerebrating on the evanescent nature of life. In a similar fashion, the latest series of works by V. Ramesh focused on the essence of ephemerality. Showcased recently at Gallery Threshold, New Delhi, and titled “The Pandemic Series”, V Ramesh drew inspiration from the confinements of the lockdown. A body of still-life paintings created in watercolour and gouache were an open invitation to the viewers to look beyond the surface and go deeper.
Untitled, Water colour and gouache on paper, 48" x 36"
Untitled, Water colour on paper, 36" x 36"
Untitled, Water colour on paper, 46" x 36"
Ramesh’s works are connected by the common thread of humanity with a meditative and introspective quality that runs throughout his compositions. He juxtaposes what is dead with what is living, drawing inspiration from disparate sources. Originally hailing from Visakhapatnam and known for his figurative works, the incumbent period of lockdown urged Ramesh to journey within and retrace his artistic roots.
A blue ceramic vase is filled with both wilted and fresh flowers. A red canvas has a see-through jar filled with dead blossoms. Taking ordinary objects from everyday surroundings, he permeates them with his own ideas and feelings, turning the mundane into something extraordinary. There is a fascinating interweaving of abstraction with realism. His water colours have a transparent quality to them, inviting the viewer to look beyond the impermeable.
Untitled, Water colour on paper, 46" x 36"
Ramesh has been a faculty at the Department of Fine Arts, Andhra University since 1985. He received his Masters in Fine Arts from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda and has been a recipient of the Sanskriti Award in 1993 and a Senior Fellowship from Department of Culture in 1995-97. Having exhibited his works the world over, he has drawn his inspiration from varied sources. This multicultural diversity of inspiration has allowed him to develop his own unique idiom over time, entering into a discourse directly with the viewer.
Poetic metaphors run throughout his works like muted undercurrents. An ordinary brass vessel lying around the house comes alive on the canvas bursting with physicality – a spiritual interplay of form and poetry. The best of ideas often seem to come to him from the most commonplace and ordinary subjects that he manages to execute with great dexterity.
Untitled, Water colour and gouache on paper, 72" x 36"
Untitled, Water colour on paper, 72" x 36"
Untitled, Water colour on paper, 36" x 46"
The transparent nature of Ramesh’s works imparts a tantalizing, sacred quality to them. He goes beyond the material by opening it up and seeing what lies beneath, inviting the viewers to come along. His objects do not merely belong to the vanitas genre but metaphorically have a life of their own. A hyperrealist yellow flower is placed inside an empty transparent jar with similar dead flowers outside. Nothing remains static in this world – everything is transient and subject to change. If one becomes static, one stops evolving and eventually perishes. Change is the only thing that can bring about fresh energies to our human existence. Here, one is reminded of the famous poem by Robert Frost, “Nothing Gold Can Stay”, where the poet ponders on the similar themes of the cycle of continuity and rebirth.
Ramesh used the technique of screen printing with water colour that is later washed several times to allow a complex layering of forms; he seems to favour multiple layering against the notions of pureness. This allows these images to come to life and create an interconnectedness of forms reciting our contemporary realities in great depth. Distinct ideas and subjects are rendered on the canvas and metamorphosed to something much more compelling. His works hold the emotional residue of what he had undergone in the past one-and-a-half years, reflecting both the beauty and despondency of our unparalleled times. The process of re-looking and re-imagining the objects seems to have been liberating to him and he perfectly manages to portray these times. One finds a deep resonance in his works and is reminded of the famous lines by Dickens, “. . . it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair”.
Exhibition display at the Threshold gallery
(All images are courtesy of the Threshold gallery and the artist, V. Ramesh)
Poorvi Rajimwalé is originally from Jodhpur, Rajasthan. She holds a Masters in English Literature. She is currently based in Delhi, works as a freelance artist and writes on art.