When Masuram Ravikanth, a Telangana-based artist fascinated with photographic archives, introduced digital technologies into them, the results were recreated old images with a creative twist, some of which are exhibited here starting Thursday. Titled “Slippery Memories: Unhinged Histories”, the exhibition of over 450 digitally enhanced archival images – divided into four series opened at the Triveni Kala Sangam here.
“My fascination with the concept of the photograph comes from my father’s photographic studio dating back several decades, and my grandfather who was a poet-artist” Ravikanth told IANS, adding that he started collecting visual archives from books, personal records, collections of local gallerists and the internet. The works of his four digital art series, created between 2009-2014, are presented as photographic slides and video installations, he said.
“I create the same work in digital art, painting, sculpture and audio-visual media,” the artist of many mediums added. His 2009 series called the Royal DictArt has his self-portraits mimicking royal Indian costumes and demeanour, “as represented in Hyderabad miniature style from the late nineteenth century”. As he put it, he was interested in “how the public used to shoot” at that time.
There is, however, a common thread in both this, and the first of his two-part “Romancing the Reminiscence” series – in which he is appropriating his father’s studio photography practices from the 1960’s and 1970’s. In these, artist Ravikanth is “very much present as himself, as a viewer, the viewed and as the interlocutor for the audiences”, the curatorial note on the exhibits read.
For his second Reminiscence series (2011), the 38-year-old artist-photographer recreates images of iconic modern and contemporary Indian art from the late 19th and early 20th century India. Replete with personal images and memories, his fourth series “Spandolika – Rocking Horse” (2014) examines the idea of ‘play’ by using archival portraits of children with their rocking horses and other toys.
“He overlays the photographs with images of Marvel comic heroes and other popular visual culture characters like Hanuman and Mr Bean,” the note read. What seems interesting is how Ravikanth merges two historical periods – for instance, a black-and-white print of a toddler on his/her rocking horse, superimposed with the image of a flying Superman, a modern icon.
His photographs, seeming like a visual commentary on radically-changed worlds with different visual cultures, also highlight the converging, multimedia approach of the artist of today. The exhibition will run till November 21.