BENGALURU: Raghava KK, a Bengaluru born artiste, works across mediums. He has worked on paintings, installations, performances and even apps, all in the pursuit of expanding the human experience. This 37-year-old, who dropped out of regular schooling to be a cartoonist and has since worked with various renowned artistes, was named as one of the most fascinating people to know.
Raghava was here, at the 15th anniversary celebrations of gallery g, to conduct a masterclass titled ‘Celebrating The Arts With The Community’. He says such discussions are essential. “We are in the post-human age where art is being influenced by technology, by changes in our definition of Self. You will find that artists across the board are responding to this and you will never know what is emerging from the artworld unless we come together,” he says, of the class that helped artists contextualise what they are doing in a larger narrative and also with feedback. Excerpts from an interview.
Which is the medium you are most partial to?
Artificial intelligence or painting or digital or brainwave art, I have done all kinds of things but the thing that excites me most is the idea that the media is part of the message - it’s not separate… my favourite is water colours because like me its mischievous and it disobeys you and the only way to make peace with it is to have happy accidents, because you can’t control it .
You have said that humour with pathos is the most striking form of art. Could you name a few masters of this?
Comic Pathos, definitely. For me Luigi Ontani does an entire satirical work about himself. He is a narcissist. He only paints himself but he makes fun of himself, he reinvents himself. He sees himself in multiple ways. At one level, he is talking about how important it is to know who you are and at the other level, he says don’t’ take yourself too seriously and he uses humour to deconstruct himself.There are many Indian artists too who does humour. I love the work of Thukral and Thagra, I like the element of humour in their work.
You have said that honesty has cost you. How?
It has always cost me. In one case my mother was very sick and almost dying and my paintings turned really dark. Although I was selling and had all the top Bollywood stars buying my work. My paintings turned dark… that just completely destroyed me financially. Another time, I did an entire children’s book for iPad on India’s Independence - shake it once, you get Pakistan perspective, shake it again and you get the British perspective. But I have not been able to bring it out because it was too controversial. There are other times when I am not able to share my work with the world because I was little too honest. We are too sensitive and maybe we take ourselves too seriously.
How did you come up with Pop-It (an app that displays different perspectives on families)?
I grew up in a small Tamil Brahmin family. I thought life was a certain way and that was life until I started travelling and staying in different homes. Then, I saw different configurations of homes, I saw single parents, grandparents bringing up children, I saw gay couples bringing up children. I realised that whether you agree or disagree with it, a family to different people means different things- it could be adopted or it could be a friend. What is family - a family is a caregiver and a caretaker and an unconditional love between them. I wanted to create a children’s book which says mommy, daddy, two children, a puppy dog is not the definition of a family… my art has always been about transcendence, transcending one idea, transcending yourself, transcending your own ideas and going beyond yourself. When you shook Pop-It (the device on which the app was installed), you saw a different configuration of a family but the story is the same, however the configuration of the family changes.
With Flipsicle, you say that you map curiosity…
Flipsicle was a visual discovery engine that mapped the way you make meaning of pictures and clustered you with people with similar meaning making to understand what new concepts you are willing to take on. So we invented what we call the Empathy Muscle - which says if you show someone enough of something different, they will start adapting and the objective was to see how do I expand someone’s mindset. So again there’s transcendence - how do we go beyond the search. Even Flipsicle was a mass discovery engine to increase your curiosity on new ideas and to expand your mind. The brain is like a muscle - the more you exercise it to see new things, the more open it will be to seeing new things and empathy is a direct factor of neuroplasticity exercised.
You have collaborated with people across professions. Who was the crankiest and who was the friendliest?
One of the most amazing collaborations I have had with is the musician Paul Simon of the Simon and Garfunkel fame. When I met him, he intended for me to illustrate an album cover and I said that’s a job not a collaboration - Collaboration is between equals and you are a legend and I am a nobody… he said you have this perspective on life, energy and youth and then I said let me be the king of that and you be the king of your music. I brought my heart as an equal to him and it started as the toughest but became the best. I think this answers both the best and the worst.
What to watch,read and listen
One of my favorite author is John Berger, he wrote “Ways of seeing” that changed my perspective- I would recommend him. On movies, I would again recommend Berger’s TV series. Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk on where creativity comes from is one of the most powerful talks that I have ever heard on TED.