Coaxing the Clay - G. Ravinder Reddy

One of the most prolific artists of this century, a modeller – as he likes to call himself – G. Ravinder Reddy creates expressions of the female form that are unflinchingly sensual and personal. The Visakhapatnam-based artist, who received his education in fine arts from Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda, has been making revolutionary aesthetic statements for over 30 years.

Reddy’s admiration for Apsaras, Yakshis, and divine damsels from Indian folklore is evident in The Woman (1995) and The Woman Holding her Breasts (1998). While Under the Tree (1998), inspired from religious images, was audacious, Sitting Woman and Family (1997) was exuberant. His more recent sculptures of female heads leave a lasting impression with their striking colours, colossal heads, and huge eyes.

For Ravinder, modelling with clay is his language, and he strives to find the best way to express himself as succinctly as possible. One central quality of his work is to challenge the very constitution of sculpture, the very material of sculpture, as a solid form that has to do with evoking colourful women in different forms, styles, colours, and textures. His relationship with his work is unique and visually intense, and has continued to evolve. We chat with the acclaimed artist about his process that involves stretching, pulling, and summoning meaning from the clay. In doing so, he creates a record of emotions.

Talk a little about your process, specifically the relationship you have with your sculptures.
I am a modeller, which means I work in clay to express my ideas. However, since clay is fragile and can’t stay for long, I use various mediums like polyester, resin, and fibreglass for the creation. I then coat them with car paint or gold leaf.

I’ve integrated styles from ancient civilisations such as Egyptian, Greek, and Central American. My preferred subject has always been female, but my style is nothing new. I believe a female form gives an artist more space and freedom of expression.  

What’s the most rewarding part of this for you?
When I exhibit, sometimes people react very differently to what I initially thought of, and that is rewarding. When the work explores complex emotions and collapsed into a single moment, it is amazing to see another person dissect that work using their life experiences and yielding interesting results. The audience’s thoughts and reaction fuel the original intention of the piece. While this will not change how I thought of the concept at first, it adds a new dimension.

Do you ever re-work any previous creations?
Yeah, I do re-work. Sometimes I start with a big bang but get lost in between. So I take my time, go back and resolve it. Sometimes you need to keep working on it. So these things happen; it’s a process.

What’s the role of meaningful coincidence in your work? Do you actively seek to construct compositions you believe will spark synchronicity in viewers?
I don’t active lyseek it, but I do try to gain that with my thought. I also try to come around and resolve those issues.

How would you describe your artistic mission?
Honestly, I’ve never thought of my art as a mission. My concepts are not far away from real life. But once I’m working, I’m never satisfied. That said, the basic idea is to express myself and share my philosophy through art with the audience. I believe in expressing the place where I come from and transcending my region to different places. The issue that I work on may not be international, but as long as people can connect to it, I am happy. My work is about consciousness and it’s nice to be perceived through art in a concrete way.

You have had exhibitions in Europe and the United States. What are the views of the international audience towards Indian artists?
It is positive, and the increasing globalisation of Indian art is helping people admire the work more. Not to say that it wasn’t the case earlier, but the interests were mostly from historians, collectors, or the galleries. Lately, there have been major Indian shows in the West, and their success indicates that Indian artists are a force to reckon with.

What are some of your upcoming projects?
The working title of the exhibition is called Rasa – which means juice, essence, or taste. According to the Rasa theory of the ancient Sanskrit text Natya Shastra, the primary goal of entertainment is to transport the audience into a parallel reality. Here they experience the blissful essence of their own consciousness, and reflect on moral questions and spirituality. I want the aesthetic flavour of my work to evoke a feeling or an emotion in the audience that cannot be described.

Name one artist who you would like to work with?
I don’t want to name one artist. I want to work with different cultures like the primitive period of technological and social development or the tribal of coke art theme. Sometimes I don’t even know the names, for instance, I want to work with the sculptural who created the outdoor sculptures.

What are your other passions?
In my downtime, I enjoy cooking and gardening.

What advice would you give to a young artist following in your footsteps?
I would tell them to keep creating, as nothing comes easily. For some people, success comes early; for others it takes that extra drive. No matter what you’re doing, trust in your ideas and don’t be afraid to try something new when creating. Live your truth in your art.

One artwork you’d like to be remembered for…
I don’t have a favourite; I guess I’m still working towards the piece I’d like to be remembered for. But I want my work to be iconic and monumental.     – as told to Anisha