Ravikumar has explored mudras and faces in bronze sculptures. (Albin Mathew/EPS)
Artist Kamala Ravikumar’s fascination for art spills over to the non-commercial clay and bronze sculptures. The latter, she creates in her own studio. It is the beginning of the academic session in Chennai and Ravikumar’s space at Studio 41 in Kalakshetra Colony is buzzing with art and design enthusiasts, mostly students. We caught up with her to know how the blurring of lines between art, design, education and practice can be practised and popularised.
Ravikumar, who had graduated in commercial art from a Mumbai college, now helps aspiring design artists to hone their skills. After attending her preparatory design-based workshops, young adults keen on architecture, visual communications and arts courses declare that they have passed the entrance exams for prestigious courses of their choice, thanks to Ravikumar’s training. The Mumbai-born artist left a career in advertising to move to Chennai over two decades ago. Since then, Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi have seen over 15 painting and stained glass exhibitions of her work. At Studio 41, Ravikumar teaches drawing, painting, pottery, Tanjore glass painting, stained glass painting, fabric painting, shibori and Tiffany-style stained glass.
During the week, she also conducts preparatory design-based workshops for students planning to pursue undergraduate studies. She says, “Getting these teenagers settled in their career choices gives me a great deal of satisfaction as a teacher. Parents think of only engineering and sciences as a viable career option, and get worried when their children want to study art as a career option.” Ravikumar’s love affair with glass and colours began when she did a course on Tiffany-style painted glass while on vacation in America. She adds, “I love playing designing and playing with colours. It is therapeutic.”
Ravikumar declares that her design workshops for young adults are “satisfying” because her students have made a name for themselves. Apart from teaching technology-driven children how to appreciate art and environment conservation, she is equally devoted to environment conservation. After a stint in Exnora (a Chennai-based non-governmental environmental organisation) in the late 1980s where she was in-charge of several school programmes, Ravikumar now works independently. She teaches children how to make paper bags and gives talks in schools about the misuse of plastic bags. Her passion for teaching children art-appreciation is seen at her annual art exhibitions, which feature works by children.
The last exhibition, held earlier this year, was a culmination of a year-long art training programme. In a departure from the usual, Ravikumar ignored the concept of a theme, and let the participants’ imaginations go wild, which, she believes, hones their observational skills. Ravikumar has explored hand mudras and faces in her bronze sculptures and has dabbled with acrylic and mixed media on canvas for abstract painting.