Friday, May 14, 2010

Prasad Raghavan: The Man Behind ‘Shot Tilt’ at BMB Gallery

BMB Gallery, Mumbai presents the first solo show of the Delhi based artist, Prasad Raghavan. The show opens on 17th May 2010. Titled ‘Shot Tilt’, this exhibition features the major and ambitious works by Prasad that include the highly finished ten serigraph panels (Decalogue), another ten panel digital work (again titled ‘The Decalogue), a video adaptation of the former Decalogue (Prasad Raghavan’s Decalogue), a huge sculptural installation titled ‘And the Ships Sail Away’ and a set of paintings and drawings.

The title of the show, ‘Shot Tilt’ itself tells the viewer about Prasad’s referential points. As an avid student of world class movies and also a movie buff who has been screening movies for his friends in a specially built mini-theatre in Delhi, this artist looks out for creative inspirations amongst the movies that he has seen and studied closely. ‘Shot Tilt’ is a tilted take on a technical phrase involved in the movie making, ‘Tilt Shot’. Tilt shots are used by the movie makers to suggest a different angle perception to the particular moment or moments in the narrative. Through such shots, the director establishes, underlines and accentuates that particular moment in order to transcend its generic narrative value to the realm of artistic truth.

Prasad tilts even a tilted shot. By calling the show, ‘Shot Tilt’, he makes critical interventions in the very aspect of viewing even a tilted shot. And Prasad would like to call himself a ‘director’ rather than an ‘artist’. Of course an artist he is as his creative contributions were recognized when he was awarded by the Cannes Film Festival for his creative interpretations of world classic films by ‘re-creating’ posters in the digital medium using the core elements of the referred movies.

“In the production, distribution and consumption chain of movies, posters play a pivotal role. Posters talk to the audience directly about the theme of the movies and use images and typography in such way that the intentionality of the director is conveyed directly and sharply. As an artist who has worked in the advertising field, while watching movies I felt like making new posters for them and that was how it started,” Prasad remembers.

There was a time when the art world used to look down upon the artists who were trained in Graphic Design or worked in the field of advertisement. The anti-historical and the a-historical view that advertisement was craft oriented rather than intellectually creative caused this discrimination amongst art forms. With the collapsing of boundaries between graphic design and other forms of visual art thanks to the advent of globalization, creatively inclined graphic designers got their due.

“My generation of graphic designers was affected by this outlook. They never thought of exhibiting their works mainly because the art world was not sympathetic to them. But a new breed of curators started recognizing their worth. I was making my ‘poster’ works and had no intention to exhibit. Only my artist friends and colleagues from the field of advertisement used to see my works. They knew that I had received several awards from the field of advertisement for my creative works. Then, almost four years back, Bose Krishnamachari visited my studio and he recognized the potential of my works. Once my works were out there in the public, the perception of the audience changed completely. Now I am lucky to work with several distinguished curators from India and abroad,” says Prasad.

Graduated in Graphic Design from Trivandrum Fine Arts College, Prasad came to Delhi during the early 90s and started working in the field of advertisement. He worked with major agencies like O & M and Saatchi and Saatchi. As a keen observer of the art scene, Prasad used to visit all the exhibitions and go for most of the film festivals. And he has got several interesting memories about his tryst with film festivals and film making.

“There is a lot of competition in advertisement field. With lot of highly talented people around, one has to be really competitive to climb the establishment hierarchy. With my colleagues, I used to make short films and send them for competitions. I had received a few awards and the career graph was also going high. But that is an inside story. You always wanted to know more and see more. So it became imperative to hop from one film festival venue to another,” remembers Prasad.

‘Delegate Pass’- that’s what you want and you never get during the film festivals. “So we found a way to solve this issue. I think, many fine arts students have done this. We used to make fake passes for ourselves and friends. They looked as original as possible and you know were trained graphic designers. The funniest thing is, when you do this, the word would spread. One fine morning I was woken up by the doorbell and found a young girl standing there at the door with a few hundred rupee notes and asking for a ‘delegate pass’,” Prasad laughs.

Whoever talks about Prasad cannot skip this particular anecdote of establishing a state of the art mini theatre at the basement of a rented apartment in Chittaranjan Park, South Delhi. A shy smile comes to Prasad’s face when he recounts the incident. “I always wanted to start an art cafe and mini theatre. My friends were also interested, especially my colleague at O & M and Saatchi, Mr.Immanuel.”

At O & M, Prasad and Immanuel were assistant creative directors. Saatchi and Saatchi offered them the Creative Directors’ posts with independent charge plus a heavy pay packet and perks. But their over enthusiasm with work proved detrimental to their stay at Saatchi and Saatchi. “Establishment politics was becoming too much for us and we decided to leave the organization. And we got hefty compensations while resigning from the organization. So with that money we went ahead to do our dream project; an art café and film theatre.”

“Most of the money was used in setting up things and buying equipments. The landlady was nice to them, but the neighbors were not. They feared that too many strangers would hang out in the café and it would pose security issues in a residential area. There was a point in it and we agreed to scarp the idea of café. So my theatre ‘Adoor Art’ was started in 2004. By that time money was over. So I went back to work with O & M again where I had great friends like Sunil (now head of W+K) who still support me in my Quixotic ventures.”

Adoor Art mini theatre was demolished in 2009. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi did not want any one to run a commercial establishment from residential areas. “Adoor Art was not a commercial establishment. It was place for friends. But the law of the land is different. It does not care for art always,” says Prasad.

Prasad video taped the workers stripping off the Adoor mini theatre. He later converted the video grabs into a piece of video art and called it, ‘Hollow Men’ (It was shown in the ‘Video’ show curated by JohnyML at the Sylvaasa Gallery).

When he makes the solo debut, Prasad Raghavan is a happy man. But he is not happy about the world in which he lives. “This is a war torn world. Everyday, everywhere a war is waged. All my works deal with this situation and I use movies as a point of departure in every work.”

In the catalogue essay by me, I qualify Prasad’s works as ‘Post-Poster’ art. In my view Prasad is the only artist in contemporary Indian art scene, who has used the constituent elements of posters to create works of art, which are fundamentally different from the quality, quantity and unilateral intentions of the posters.

Prasad is reclusive in nature. He goes for long drives in hills. He practices yoga. He is soft spoken and has a tremendous sense of humor. He listens to classical music and sings fairly well. He likes to wear denims, designer shirts and jackets. He has an interesting mane. Prasad is an artist who is going to go places.

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