Shades of Grey: Artist Raghava KK’s new collection is charcoal on paper

  • Manali Shah, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: May 05, 2016 19:31 IST
Artist Raghava KK (Photo: Nimish Jain)

Raghava KK’s new collection in charcoal is as much an artist’s expression as a father’s. He explores children’s belief in myriad possibilities.

There are two themes that run through Raghava KK’s artwork. One is the wackiness of the subject itself (think historical figures and cartoons in the same frame); the second is his vivid use of colours. Somehow, the former is very much there in his new collection, Through the Looking Glass, but the latter is missing. It’s just charcoal on paper.

Raghava believes there’s a certain honesty that comes out when sketching

Raghava (35), who usually works with bright acrylic shades and on canvas, says, “There is a certain beauty in rawness, a truth and honesty that comes out when you’re sketching.” Nine works from Through the Looking Glass are on display in the city for the first time, as part of a group exhibition, Troika, at Art Musings gallery.

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The paperworks show a child looking through a magnifying glass. “This series is a whimsical exploration of human potential, and of our capacity to play many roles at once. The magnifying glass reflects the childlike belief in infinite possibilities open to us,” Raghava explains.

The self-taught, multi-disciplinary artist is a father of four, so he must know the curiosity of kids first-hand. He says, “This curiosity feeds their personalities, and they are constantly changing. Unlike adults, children truly believe that they can shape themselves into anything.”

A work from Through the Looking Glass

Being a father made Raghava question his beliefs, re-evaluate the purpose of life and change the way he thought about the future. He admits that until he had children, the only future he would think about was his own. “But today, both Netra [his wife] and I think about the world we want to live in, and the world we leave behind for our children,” he says.

Starting young

Raghava dropped out of college at 18 to pursue a career as a newspaper cartoonist. In 2010, he featured in CNN’s list of ‘Ten fascinating people you’ve never heard of’. In 2013, National Geographic awarded him the title of Emerging Explorer, an honour usually given to scientists, anthropologists, archaeologists, biologists.

Raghava with wife Netra and their children

For Raghava, starting out as a cartoonist created the instinct of reflecting the present through his works, as well as incorporating an element of humour. “I believe comic pathos is stronger than either comedy or pathos. I’ve also learned as a cartoonist to look at things with sharp wit,” says Raghava, who is also a TED Talks speaker.

All in the family

The Bengaluru-born artist currently lives in New York. In 2007, he married Netra Srikanth, who is a co-founder of Flittr, the iOs app their company, Flipsicle, has launched. Flittr, a social networking app, lets you ask in words and answer in photos. “My obsession is to bring art, science, and technology together in order to find new ways of knowing and defining who we are. I’m highly dyslexic and a visual learner. I believe visual learners have a different way of looking at the world. So I want to build a more visual knowledge system,” he says.

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Raghava and Netra conteptualise together. In a 2014 interview to Society magazine, Raghava said, “When someone says, ‘What a beautiful painting,’ she often says, ‘Thank you’.” There isn’t a single project they don’t work on as a team. He says, “Anyone who knows me well knows that we are collaborators in everything we do. We have complementary skills. Together, we are able to do much more than what either one of us could achieve individually.”

A work from Through the Looking Glass

Raghava’s children often give him feedback on his artwork and he says he learns a thing or two on how to create authentic strokes. “Rudra (7) is always discussing the content of my work at a conceptual level and offers great insights. Anaga (5) is my aesthetic police and discusses the impact colours have on emotions. Jaya (2) is my bundle of joy and tries to get in the way of doing any productive work. And Aadya, my youngest one, (9 months) is a happy Buddha and, as most children are, is fascinated by the smallest things in the world,” he says.

Be there

What: Troika, featuring works by Raghava KK, Gopikrishna and Ajay Dhandre is on display till May 31.

Where: Art Musings, Admiralty Building, Colaba Cross Lane

Call: 2218 6071

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