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Subtle forms, colourful nudges

Ravi Mandlik strives to tap the energy of wide open spaces



Ravi Mandlik's works try to grasp the inner vibrations present in all natural phenomena.

"FOR MANY, art is a retinal experience," says Georgina L'Maddox. "However, Ravi Mandlik creates an inner world where earth, sky and water are free floating elements. With this inward eye, the artist strives to tap the energy of wide open spaces, something that has always been a source of inspiration for him. Be it the weathered rocks of Bhamragad and Perimeli in Vidarbha and Mekedatu in Karnataka or the flat landscapes of Talasari at the Maharashtra-Gujarat border."

Trip to Mekedatu

In fact, it is the trip to Mekedatu that Ravi credits for changing his entire approach to painting and style of rendering. "It was in 1989, when well-known artist G.S. Shenoy invited me to Bangalore," recalls Ravi. "We had actually planned a trip to Chennai but because of cyclone, he suggested that we visit to Mekedatu instead. As I stood watching those fabulous rocks (which looked like large slices of neatly carved bread loaf!) and the gushing waters, I suddenly felt that I was looking at things in a totally different perspective."

Born in Achalpur, Maharashtra, to a drawing teacher, Ravi had started sketching and painting from a very early age. "My father was an excellent portrait artist of his time. I had always observed and admired his works. Like him, I also took to realistic painting and came to well-known very early in my life." Curiously, when he was just 17, Ravi had taken his father's position as an art teacher in the same school his father taught. He has very fond memories of the two-year stint being with children and imparting the introductory lessons in drawing and painting to them.

He could not be confined to the boundaries of a small town for long, though. Soon Ravi found himself enrolled at the famed J.J. School of Arts in Mumbai. "It is not so much as the teaching per se, but the ambiance and lighting of the School that was really exciting," recalls Ravi, who passed out in 1984. He won the Usha Deshmukh Gold Medal and also received a fellowship in 1985. In the meanwhile, his innings as an art teacher got a new lease, when he was offered the faculty position in J.J. School itself — which he continued till 1995.

A prolific painter, Ravi continued to participate in several shows and exhibitions, including the Seychelles Visual Art Biennale (1992) where he won an international award. In 1995, he was invited to visit and represent the country in another international exhibition organised by Yokohama Citizens' Gallery, Japan. From 1996 to 1999, he was elected as Honorary Secretary of the Bombay Art Society, Mumbai and in 1999, he became one of the five award-winning artists from India in the Windsor and Newton Worldwide Millennium painting contest.

Transformation

His transformation from a realist painter to an abstract artist took place in the late '80s. But Ravi, an ardent admirer of Gaitonde and Ramkumar, does not give much importance to these `artificial' labels. "According to me, there is no difference between the two," he says. "Even while I was painting portraits, my primary concern was observing the play of light and shade on people. When I would make my daily travels in the suburban train, for instance, I would watch the faces around me with great curiosity and attentiveness. As I matured, I keenly observed the elements and changes in nature and observed the forms, colours and textures with the same intensity. Now, I study the relationship between various elements and their reaction with living organisms. I try to grasp the inner vibrations present in all natural phenomena. And when I paint, I follow and trace those subtle forms of energy in my works."

Ravi's recent paintings — marked by subtle forms, delicate nudges of colours and textures, and play of light and shade — have been brought to the city by Crimson Art Resource and are currently on show at the Hatworks Boulevard. The exhibition concludes on January 31.

ATHREYA

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