Carving Time by Rajesh Ram at the Gallery
“I AM constantly exploring the properties of the place of history amidst a fluidity and movement created with heavy connotations of human reality and the power of politics in the life of man.” Rajesh Ram
An artist who contends with surpassing the limitations of the physical constraints of materiality while interrogating notions of perceived reality, power and strength within the history of politics, hybrid forms, and the existence of man. Drawing upon his extensive knowledge of nature, history and anatomy, Rajesh Ram examines perceived material capabilities and how man and herbed forms appear in surprising ways in the haunts of history. The 40 pieces of stoneware sculptures represent imaginative ,fascinating forms, suggesting mathematical perfection to the fusion of half man half animal , while the exterior surfaces reflect dusty ruin amorphousness ,in the textures resembling — metaphors for the human experience and where real beauty in all of forms and humans including homo sapiens can be found. There is a seamless strain of poetics within the juxtaposition of fragility and strength in the stoneware forms that he works with. Within the structure of sculptural vignettes we see a physical duality which unravels as a parallel to the very notions and paradoxes of the human condition. This exhibition is a natural evolution of Rajesh Ram’s sculptural work exploring the physical nature of materials, the place of memory and the politics of human behaviour. Characters leap out of the pages of history. It’s like a melange of memories that have frozen into stoneware sculptures that tell stories of the past woven into present day debacles in politics.
Homo Sapien series
Ram’s Homo Sapien series is a Darwinian delight. He juxtaposes the homo sapiens with Indian temple sculptures. “I have always had a fascination for the roots of human history, it creates an unending curiosity within me,” says Ram. “In this sculpture I am creating a bridge between the past and the present. I have portrayed an erotic figurine style from Indian temple sculptures. I wanted to represent fertility and procreation of civilisations by making these sculptures. Here I have created 10 Homosapien sculptures in different styles and figurations.”
Evolution of man
What Ram has done is to create a surreal environment that evokes the spirituality and naturality of the evolution of man within relics of Hinduism in the temple sculptures that create not just a corollary of conversations, but simply add a sense of tranquil contemplation. You may know that you are -sitting on a bench inside this beautiful walled gallery, but the glowing light rays create patterned shadows of the sculptural finesse that Ram conjures to create a whole set of design dynamics that go beyond the banal to carve a visual history that is unique.
You can almost smell the peculiar musty scent of ancient places of worship, places where thousands of people have gone before you over hundreds of years to think, pray, plead and worship. Sometimes the face sheds tears, sometimes it watches in silent angst, sometimes you see deep love, each homo sapien is an emotive evocation in sculptural finesse and this is the kind of power and quizzical quotient that Ram’s work emanates.
Art and architecture
Blending religious art and architecture in some works that are wall stories, eschews human and animal depictions, and these constraints seem to be spiritually effective. Visually glorious botanical patterns and small, specific depictions result in something that feels universal. The pillars and arches constructed during the golden age of innovations in math and science seem to surely feed such stunning decorative geometries. Human Roots and Spacecraft are two works that play with symbolism and geometry.
“Sculptures and architecture are records of the past,” says Ram. “Somehow we can track the passage of history through these artworks. It also talks about human development and so many journeys. So I portrayed the human brain to show the roots of human existence. I use architectural representation because it is my favourite expression for my art practice.”
Standing in the dim lit avant- garde space at Palette Art Gallery, looking at the filigree of shadows in stoneware, you feel like you could soar or sink into solitude within the volume of the room. Some of the most compelling pieces such as Left Over, Space and Melting Backbone combine zoological brilliance, articulations and atmosphere. Even in this technologically saturated age, the simple magic of melding imagery of man and animals as hybrids and shadows still rivets people.
Man and nature
Half Head has a hippo with mouth wide open fused into the head of man. “When I sculpted this roaring hippo a few years ago, I was narrating the story of power, and the travelling notes of history. Half Head represents the politics behind the throne. This composition is the creation of a scene of how my mind plays back the narration of the beauty of the reality of History and its multiple elements,” says Ram.
Ram’s man and nature hybrid pieces give us a sense of wonder at both the elements of inclusion as well as exclusion. It is like a journey in intersections. Ram translates these contradictory feelings into his sculptures, by creating a contemplative space of his own making of dualities that is open to all. He uses simple means to dramatic effect: a single, human head or figure and plantar fronds and roots shine through intricately created botanical elements made from stoneware and treated with ash. Each side of these sculptures are a hallmark of brilliance in juxtaposition and form, repeating asymmetrical patterns that Ram designs by combining and adapting different decorative elements he sees on various travels to different parts of the world. The antiquated shapes and forms on the human and animal faces become shadows on the gallery walls. Within the fusion of man and animal forms there is no clear boundary or separation that exists; our moving eyes change the nature of the pattern as we walk freely through the dense silhouettes in the gallery.
Bridge between past and future as visitors we become part of the imagery as the patterns project the facial complexity of the sculptures. The idea that we are all connected, that the fabric of humanity is inherently interwoven, is a theme that runs through this suite of works in the show. One stellar work is Lucas Bringer of Light
“This is one of the characters I created in my imagination which acts as a bridge between the past and the future,” says Ram.
“When I look into the pages of history, something pushes me to think about the beginning of everything. All the characters that figure somehow also tell so many stories from the beginning.” In the patterns of stoneware we see an attempt to immerse viewers in shared experiences and inclusive spaces. Ram creates his own images of interpretation. Suspended between past present and future the sculptures transform the surrounding environment, alluding to the associations of materials and memories. These exquisitely detailed sculptures are framed into intricate incorporations of iconography and textual referencing scientific, mystical and cultural commentaries surrounding creation narratives. In many ways Ram is conceiving his litany of works as a dialog between science and man. We are taken back to the story of Earth's creation in seven days, marking the beginning of the world and in essence, of time itself. In contrast, theories of evolution, which arose during the nineteenth century, chronicle a history that began billions of years before humanity’s existence. Ram brings all of this alive. He also interweaves a multiplicity of belief systems. This show of stoneware sculptures is an odyssey of blending elements from the natural world, each sculpture becoming a self-contained symbolic universe exploring the fluidity of time and how diverse narratives coalesce and intersect. In the imagination of his own universe the artist Rajesh Ram steps into multiple orbits that transcend time and tide.
February 21 2023