Artists

Ravinder Reddy's sculpture is heraldic. The thesaurus gives the following words in association with the word 'herald'. They are: precursor, predict, precession, forerunner, proclaim, messenger. Many of the sculptures are larger than life heads. Invariably, they look frontally through wide-open eyes, the characteristic attitude of one who proclaims. None of the sculptures looks sideways, or over the shoulder. The one who predicts may draw material from the past, but he has only the future to address. And the message, or prediction, that is about to be announced can be read from sculpture to sculpture in the gold emblazoning, or the searing red which covers the head, like colours on a herald's flag. Or in the complex hair-dos on the female heads, hair-dos which are like emblematic designs. In his search for forms that could satisfy his sculptor's instincts, Reddy goes back to earlier periods of civilisation : the Egyptian, and the early Greek, where conventions of extreme simplification and frontality prevailed. This bold backward step is to me a kind of confirmation of the authenticity of the herald role. It is a complementary step taken, essential to one who would read the future.

A convention is a given, a predictable way of doing something. When it becomes an end in itself it is arid. When married to deeper needs, like the projection of a shared philosophy, it can ennoble an art form, and also make it amply available to all kinds of viewers. The conventionalising impulse in Reddy is vigorous, though, for other reasons. I will hazard a wild interpretation. It is the silenced voice of Indian sculpture, which was one of the greatest the world has seen, trying to address a possible, future renewal.

However, there is a further element in Reddy's sculpture that keeps the convention from becoming arid. It is the repeated outbreak of sexual sensuality. Even where the subject may not be overtly sexual, the sensuality colours and modifies the convention, infusing it with irregularity, mischief, and all such-like good things.

There are risks in the venture. The greatest is the danger of primitivism. Harking back to nearly primitive forms can take you to relatively primitive organisations of society, and how do we fit in there? Also, the totemic form has an anthropological history for us now. Both these factors can contribute towards attenuating the contemporary presence which should always be welcome in our art. But Reddy has skilfully skirted this danger till now. There is no reason to think he will not continue to do so.

In fact, his recently completed sexual sculptures in relief give us added reassurance. In these works he has all but come away from the conventions he used so far. The sensuality is serene, in most instances the sexual impulse does not speak of excitement, but of fulfilment.

The limpid calm of these works finds apt expression in forms which are no longer rigid. Sculpture in relief is a welling upward of a world of images from the flat and even surface in which they were earlier concealed. The sculptor merely unveils them, or so it would seem. This sense of apparent effortlessness goes hand in hand with the emotional and structural informality of Reddy's latest works.

From the exhibition catalogue published by Sakshi Gallery (1991).

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