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.