Friday, November 11, 2016

No Laughing Matter - Meet an Artist - Ramachandra Babu

I hadn't posted for a while now as I was busy with my show - 'Repercussions' which concluded last month. It needed all my time and attention as I was curating/organizing the show. It went on well with some good-great reviews-responses and wonderful support from family, friends and art lovers. Thanking everyone for their wishes, love and support. It's been a long time since I posted Meet An here's Ramachandra Babu, a brilliant Illustrator from Dubai.

Ramachandra Babu's cartoons and caricatures would be a hot thing over a cup of morning tea in the U.A.E. Just as people wait for the newspaper, the likes of me wait for some art in the news as well. It's a pleasure to see Ramachandra Babu and Luis Vazquez's works as it would definitely spread a smile across your face, making us ponder on facts as well. He is the senior illustrator and Feature page designer of Gulf News in Dubai. He has served as a features and illustration judge at the prestigious Society for News Design competition in Syracuse University, N.Y.—a first from the region—in 2008. A year earlier, he received the silver award from SND (Society of News Design), another first in the region. Since 2007, Babu has received SND Awards of Excellence every year for five years, consecutively. He has also won several awards from WAN-IFRA(World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers) and Malofiej.

He started his career as a portrait painter. Over the years, he has painted portraits and created murals of the Dubai Royal Family and for leading business houses in the United Arab Emirates. He has also worked for the leading Arabic language newspaper Al Bayan. Proir to that he was the art director of Your Health magazine.  

Ramachandra Babu, who in his early life was the art teacher at Omanoor government high school, held his first exhibition at Dakshin Art Gallery, Madras, where he was the Resident Artist from 1993 until 1995. Several other exhibitions followed. He was the Resident Artist and manager of Arabian Art Gallery in Dubai from 1998 until 2000; and Resident Artist at Al Abbar Art Gallery in Dubai from 1996 until 1998.

Ramachandra Babu

As the tradition goes here, do brief us about yourself, family, education and work.

I was born in Kerala in 1968, moved to Madras, studied fine arts in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. I am now living with my wife Beena and two kids Athul and Rithin in Dubai since 1996. 

believe that painting is an escape from the routine of life, and the drawings and paintings defy expressions or words: they speak for themselves. If there’s a theme, it is reality itself. Each offer a version of reality, with the viewer best left to gauge how each subject is interpreted – and reality is always subject to interpretation. My artistry is in sharing the illusion of reality with the viewer.

Watercolour -The Domino-RBabu-HuesnShades

You are a Senior Illustrator in the Gulf News. How much do you enjoy illustration being restricted by job limitations? Or is there such a limitation? Does it challenge your creativity?

In reality, illustration is a supplementary element going along with a story. I think it does not have an existence of its own. Is there any limitations? Yes, the story itself is the limitation. Some stories open great opportunities. As an illustrator, I try to look from my own viewpoint and try to interpret. Probably that is the only creativity I have when doing an Illustration and I think I do enjoy it.


Your caricatures are a great hit! I think almost everyone who reads Gulf News (particularly the likes of me) would look for your art (and Luis Vazquez’s)’s a visual treat. How did you come about doing caricatures? Was it as part of your job or was it because you wanted it?

Thank you for looking into our works. Luis is one of the very best illustrators. I started doing caricature as part of the job. I developed most of it to fit into political stories. I don’t do it out of my job.


What is your opinion about cartoons and caricatures being a form of activism?

“Caricature is a loaded portrait” this is described about Caricature in the western world and they use  it as a weapon for activism. I don’t know how much we use it. (I never had an opportunity to use it in that sense). In eastern countries we don’t turn into ourselves and laugh. 


Has your years abroad, being an NRI, helped you to evolve (obviously everyone evolves over time but has it helped you in your creative progress)? How has been in Dubai helped you in your arts? Do you think you would have been completely different if you had stayed back home?

Dubai, has given me enormous challenges and opportunities. It transformed me into a lot. As you know Dubai is a specimen of a global city. As Illustrators we are catering to a multicultural audience.  To appeal all the different cultures is a challenge.


I have seen your watercolors and acrylic paintings...they are gorgeous and completely different from what you normally do, obviously. Which one do you enjoy the most? What happens to you physically and emotionally while engaging in such works?

I am still not so sure about my other works, still learning or trying to find my space or a style. I enjoy doing that works.


Have you ever thought of becoming a full-time artist?

Every moment. That is my ultimate ambition.

You recently travelled to Italy and you had Fabriano Aquarelle Exhibition there. Tell us something about it.

It was a painting holiday, invited by the cultural ministry of Italy. Travelling with artists from other countries is always a fun and a challenge. It is like opening a new window. It will open some new lights in your creative space.


Has your travel influenced you? Finding art in new forms that you had learned about before through books and documentaries and seeing them in has it all been? What’s the best thing that you learned from this travel?

Traveling always opens you up. When standing in a strange landscape, you will have a chance to imagine yourself with in the new scene. A new realization whether you fit or not.


Are your illustrations done manually or digitally? Which one do you prefer? Or is it a mix of both?

Nowadays it is mostly digital due to our deadlines and to avoid scanning and other processes. Once we finish, it can directly go to print. But I prefer manual, because you will have an original artwork after all.


How do you challenge yourself into making some new art? Do you look for newer versions and keep abreast what’s happening in the art scene both in Dubai and Kerala?

I do observe the new trends and changes.  I have to find myself something new soon.

I remember the KGS show which Collage Communications had organized and that’s one of the most memorable exhibitions that I had witnessed. I was definitely witnessing an insurmountable legend. You are one of the partners in Collage Communications. Tell us something about your Collective and the work done by it.

It was happening mostly because of the connection with Mr. Naveen Kishore and Seagull publishers in Kolkata. They wanted to have an exhibit organized in the UAE and we helped them to organize it with the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi, It was a huge success I believe.


This is the Biennale year. Do you visit Kochi Muziris Biennale? Have you visited during the earlier editions? What change do you feel?

I have visited all the editions. I do have a plan to visit this year as well. It has changed the Keralites’ perception towards the visual arts. But I don’t know how much that has influenced the mentality of ours as art collectors.


Do you have an art hub/community (in the sense of gathering of friends) in Dubai where you meet with your artist friends, talk-discuss art, think art and feel art? Maybe play some art movies etc. How much do you think will it influence artists’ and their personal growth (or will there be any influence)?

We do have gathering sometimes. The cultural part of art is missing in Dubai. May be because it is a multicultural society.


Does reading, music, movies influence your art? Do you work on those subjects?

All these are the only things to influence me in art.

Is there a dream project? What would that be?

I have been planning many projects in these years, probably I need to retire from the media job to pursue my dream.


Which are the artists’ who will find a place on the walls of your living room?

Two Austrian painters: Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele.

Any Indian artist who has influenced you?

A Ramachandran and in cartoons, Mario Miranda.


What would be your word of advice to aspiring artists’?

Work, work and keep working.


Finally, where can my readers reach you? Links of your website, blog, FB page, Twitter etc.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Repercussions - A Group Exhibition

Six artists from different regions come together in an attempt put forth this thought and portraying their interpretation of repercussions in our very own Durbar Hall Art Centre, Kochi. I have been busy coordinating, curating and ideating this vision of mine for the past 5 to 6 months. It's been a humungous task, one that has definitely filled me with immense satisfaction.

Dates: 01 – 05 October, 2016
Venue: Gallery D, Durbar Hall Art Centre, D H Road, Kochi
Gallery Hours: 11:00 am to 7:00 pm


INAUGURATION: Sri T Sathyapal (Chairman, Kerala Lalithakala Akademi)

CHIEF GUEST: Sri T Kaladharan (Director, Orthic Creative Centre, Kochi)

ARTISTS: Ahlam Abbas, Cyril Gabriel, Deepa Gopal, German Fernandez, Haribaabu Natesan and Parag Natekar.

Repercussions means consequences or impact or outcome of an action. It could mean from anything subjective to objective, from social, political to family or within oneself...from personal life to what’s happening around the world. There are lot of implications from home to community, from nature to environment, from relationships to media, from de-constructing myths/tales/legends to regions... Everything we do has a rippling effect. Even the slightest action, whether consciously or unconsciously, brings about a repercussion even though we do not realize it.

This is what I was busy with for the past 5 months. Expecting all your support, cooperation, love and prayers, we move forward. Please do join us. 

Edit: PS: Year 2021
At that point in my life, i.e. in 2016 I was diffident in using the term "Curator" and so sufficed with "Co-ordinator" while in actuality I had done every task single-handedly from scratch and I wasn't even sure that I would be able to pull it off well. I wished I had a team to help me with. But God's grace and blessings from all the well-wishers I did and I am grateful for that.

Friday, August 19, 2016

How to paint Sunset in 5 simple steps

“A sunset is the sun’s fiery kiss to the night.” 
 Crystal Woods

Preparing the base

 After adding yellow, yellow ochre and Indian yellow

 After adding orange

After adding scarlet lake 

After adding raw sienna

 after adding raw umber, the sunset is ablaze...

I have used dry brush technique. No water to dilute the colours. Paints straight from the tube. I love the effect and feel of it. Was it useful? 
Please do leave me your feedback. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Kashi 2016 Project

Kashi Art Gallery is working on a community based public art project regarding women conceptualized and curated by Tanya Abraham with Gigi Scaria, a collateral of the Kochi Muziris biennale. The first discussion took place on 26th of July. It’s a process that would continue until Dec this year. Local women are working on a biennale collateral project, “Can I call you back?”, whereby art becomes a medium of expression and community connection.

Tanya Abraham is a journalist, author and administrator who is the creative director and curator of Kashi Art Gallery, Fort Kochi. She has worked on numerous projects focussing on skills of artists to enhance poignant concepts. She is also the founder-director of The Art Outreach Society, a non profit organization working towards social and individual change using art as a tool. Author of ‘Fort Cochin, History and Untold Stories’ she was nominated for the contribution to the restoration of a historical Dutch building to an economically viable project by UNESCO in 2010. Currently she is pursuing her Masters in Arts Administration from the University of Kentucky, USA.

Gigi Scaria is one of the famed contemporary artists, basically from Kothanallur who lives and works in New Delhi. Gigi Scaria’s work draws the viewer’s attention towards the painful truths of migrancy and displacement. The issue of non-belonging and unsettlement reverberate between the walls on his canvas. Gigi Scaria’s art focuses on issues surrounding the implications of the city’s rapid urbanisation approach. Highly experimental, he works with several media such as installations, video, photography, painting and sculpture. He is also involved with welfare projects and expresses activism through art for social and political change.

Tanya, Gigi, Sujith, Gayathri, Madonna, Deepa Anil Sivadas, Devi Nayar, Marian Paul, Sarah Pamella John, Shridha, Jorjeena, Yashi, Asiya, Sonya Elizabeth Bobby Antony and myself, were the participants of the first stage of discussions that took place amid the old world charm of Old Harbour Hotel in Fort Kochi which was renovated with the effort of Tanya Abraham.

'Women Power' - Participants of Kashi 2016 Project
Tanya Abraham (first from right)

Most of us misconstrue feminism for anti-male. This often distracts and deviates the attention from the genuine issues at hand and ultimately undermines the cause too. While the truth lies in the fact that feminism is just meant to empower women, still the weaker sex in many parts of the world how much ever we may try and be vocal for equal rights in every arena of ‘her life’.  It just means to be compassionate, support, co-operate and uphold one another without letting down the sorority which is the need of the hour, more so now. Instead of ‘toxic femininity’ (as captured in a photo by Tanya from the San Francisco based school bulletin board where her son studies which by the way exemplifies that not even the much-thought-of-advanced-places are exempt from such backlashes and back stabs) we should concentrate on embracing femininity in all aspects of the term. This project of ours is such a venture where we wish to support and care for our fellow beings just by acknowledging their presence, by hearing out what they have to say and make them heard if possible just the way it is; without much ado or drama that life may or may not offer. Some ‘exist’, some ‘try to live’ and some rarely ‘live’. It is only a natural want to live our lives to the fullest and to yearn for what one actually deserves is something terrible and tragic.

The project entitled “Can I call you back?” was aptly gauged by Deepa Anil Sivadas who said that not every call has to be taken and answered. We, women, tend to feel guilty if we do not respond to each and every call. This isn’t fair for we do have a choice to answer, to reject or to call back later. It doesn’t apply only to calls, literally. It is so much more metaphorical here. 

Marian Paul, an advocate by profession and as a member aware of all the legalities and the contexts that keep popping up in her career time and again, voiced her strong opinions which were poignant. She is much closer to the happenings than perhaps any one of us. A point comes where everyone has to choose between career and home and that sets the context as to whether she would be valued and respected or otherwise reminisces Marian.

While Devi felt that the institution of marriage is in itself wrong and that the woman should have the liberty to choose whether to marry or not in the first place. She asserted that the marital status of a woman should not be questioned nor should it be the base for a woman’s identity. Sarah mam’s personal tale on “Whose house is this?” (when she inherited her ancestral home) was interesting and made the air lighter. Definitely a breather! (while it must have made one to really think on why a women who “inherits” is someone that society can’t accept or digest)

Yashi and her family’s sense of liberty changed with place which shows the strong hold of the environment we live in, Asiya’s thoughts on a woman always being inadequate wherever she is ( in job, home or anywhere else) is thought provoking.

The most aching was when one them concluded in a line that "I forgot you" after the partition of their property. Minimal, yet all effective in the sense that one could sum up the pain with such grace. I could feel the immeasurable ache in that statement.

Attentive ears!

When Tanya referred to the hairline thread of balance that every woman has to face in her life to either strengthen or to give up on something that pertains to social conventions, the way women treat other woman particularly if she is successful and single are all that happens almost every day, gossiped about and yet nothing positive or constructive ever come out or paves way for it. Though Gigi confesses that this is his first women’s issues’ based project his ideas brim with charged vibes already, with definite directions that he wants us to pursue. As he said, we may start with one idea, a solo statement or any particular incident and it could just spread wild and catch up with a whole lot ending up in altogether different zone but ultimately a satisfying one. 

I personally feel that women in Kerala are far better off than women in many other parts of India for they do extend their freewill in a way that others cannot. In our society girls are taught irrespective of being rich or poor, at least in these parts. Yet we have miles to travel, I agree. The differences begin from birth and we have to become conscious of our attitude – beginning from the immediate family; father, mother, relatives, friends...slowly and gradually change can be brought about. But it has to be a conscious one. Equality cannot be taught, it can only be emulated. If both the boys and the girls receive the same kind of treatment, obviously it will be passed on in the same manner. What one receives is what one gives. Women are under-rated, under-treated and expected to be submissive even to the extent of being objectified. Only when that image of woman as object is transformed can she herself get to the path of transformation. The responsibility thus lies on the shoulders of the entire society – each and every member.

This is definitely an open-ended discussion and a lot can happen, be unearthed and unhappen... so we are open to suggestions, personal stories and everything along those lines. We are in the process.

Photo courtesy: Sujith P R

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Art, Journal and Retreats

When one thinks of the umpteen talents sprawling across all over the world, one is just left wondering endlessly. I often am left at that! Amazing artists' who somehow connect with one where ever we are in some form or the other. I accidentally came across Amber Kuileimailani Bonnici's online retreat, Woman Unleashed.

Online retreats has been a blast.  While I was engaged in it, I came to know about Bebe Butler's Soul Spa Online Summit from my dear blogger-friend, Linda. Thanks a lot Linda! I have been trying to keep up with them but it's been difficult though I managed to make some sessions possible.It is fun and I had some amazing time with them...though at different time zones and different spaces and at different phases. One always learns something new and that is always exciting. Thank you ladies for all the wonderful and playful sessions.

Along side there're certain personal  assignments, upcoming exhibitions that I have to be up to and meet certain deadlines. My blog posts have reduced because of that since I need time to focus on my exhibitions. I do miss publishing my weekly posts and visiting all my friends here. Know, I miss it all. All the same I do enjoy the art, art readings, watching different sessions and videos, sketching and preparing for the painting...each and everything. Sometimes my mind wanders aimlessly but I feel that too is part of the process, like a prayer lifted off by the wind, playing softly with the breeze until it reaches it divine destination where it will settle finally and then life will sprout out of it.

Here's a peek into the journal:





So until next time, keep smiling and enjoying whatever you do.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

'Mundane' is nothing but Extraordinary

Durbar Hall Art Gallery D opened up in colourful suggestions and imaginative pieces and since none was there at that time because of the heavy rain, it gave me ample liberty to walk around scanning and then savouring the works of the artists’ duo – Amjum Rizve and Hima Hari. They “combine their lines, colours and even their sense of distribution or distortion of forms and spaces”* except for a few sketches. Yes, you heard me right. It’s not a separate display of both the artists’ but a singular one. Such displays, I believe, are uncommon.

Collectibles they gathered overtime which they have used instead of a flex at the entrance of the gallery.

Hima and Amjum


Amjum and Hima’s works reflect their everyday life and locale, their routine giving it all the colour and meaning to make it an extraordinary one; a celebration of their life. It’s a mix of emotions, materials and images – a potpourri or sorts; sketches in wooden and fabric frames, paintings in canvas and scrolls with pom poms, heart-warming collage of friendship, a reminder of the college days with whom they had communicated spiritedly. Colourful fabrics – some plain, some ornate while others worked upon...there are diverse kinds of fabrics they had collected overtime. They have not only collected such found objects but also intense and passionate personal memories that speak to one about their very subjective and delicate day-to-day existence. Anjum is all tender when he points out that Hima loves to sow and collects favourite pieces to later upcycle it; incorporating them into their paintings.




Amjum and Hima both agreed that it was sometimes hard to work together when they started out since both have a strong sense of creative disposition. They did clash at times but finally they succeeded in bringing forth the best of both talents. There is mutual faith, trust and love that positively binds them together – in life and in art.

All their works have been done over a period of time. The collage started when they were in college. It’s a display of the warmth of friendship, affection and gratitude. Their works contain daily visitors to their abode from crows and pigeons to dogs and cats and their friends as well. Certain images are repeated in their works from kittens and angry birds to toys which can be found in their home where they live together. It leads us to the triptych which mentions ‘Couples not registered’ and a nude that calls out ‘Made in Kerala’. It does sort of evoke a rebellious nature for which Amjum clarifies it is these social norms that highlights it to be so, else it would have been ‘mundane’ as well.





Amjum and Hima arrived as I was about to leave giving me a chance to meet these young and talented creatives. Smiling, innocence-abound and ready to answer the queries. It was then that they explained every little detail I asked for, particularly the kohl-eyed Amjum while Hima had to play the hostess to other visitors who had started to arrive.

All their works are not titled outside but within the work itself; creatively integrated.

The show concludes today, 5th July at 7 pm.

*from the essay.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Poetry, Art and the rest...

This week Kochi saw the second edition of Poetry Installation in the acclaimed Durbar Hall Art Gallery. It had four poets - Tensin Tsundue, CIni Mathew John, Rafeeq Ahmed and Ajessh Dasan - whose poetry were recited along side their amazing installations and with incredible sound effects. It was organized by Vinod Krishna, a movie-maker and writer, and his team.

You can read about it in detail in the article I wrote for The News Minute here. Hope you like it.



It's been weeks I have been doing some sketches and a few mixed media works. I am on a personal retreat right now...working out on an idea-painting for an upcoming exhibition(s). This is something I worked from Wyanne's online class as a breather. I must say that her videos are awesome and they always, without fail, inspire me... so here's to Wyanne.


It's been a pretty good week because I could focus on art alone...whether that be writing, art, music or movies.

I came across an Online Retreat - Woman Unleashed by Amber Kuileimailani Bonnici. It sounds like an awesome program. In case you are interested, you can check out the link here.

So, how was your week, friends?

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Whatever art is called...

Soul searching
Soul stirring
Soul pacifying
I experience it at many levels
One way or the other

Perhaps everything comes
Under one roof
At some point or the other
Be it ordinary or surreal


The best way
Is to let in and
Let go
Deep into it
Without much
Consideration (read thought)

Sketch2- HuesnShades

Just for the fun of it
Even as a prayer


And embrace what you get
In return


For your surrender
Total surrender


It could even be mundane objects
Or meditative patterns
Or something deeper...