Indian mythological figures come alive in Ramesh Gorjala’s mixed media art show
Contemporary artist Ramesh Gorjala, inspired by Indian gods, has dedicated his current solo show titled Vāhana, to a deep, meditative study of the iconography of Indian deities and their Vāhanas
Those familiar with the Indian visual mores would know the indispensability of a deity’s Vāhana, the sacred animals and birds that are said to be their divine vehicles, to the deity’s esse. Contemporary artist Ramesh Gorjala, who was born in the family of weavers and learnt the folk art of Kalamkari from his uncle and award winning Kalamkari artist Balaji Theretham, has been inspired by Indian gods and goddesses and has dedicated his current solo show titled Vāhana, to a deep, meditative study of the iconography of Indian deities and their Vāhanas, via his mixed media on canvas works.
A Sanskrit word which means vehicle, or mount, the show’s title Vāhana is born out of his artistic contemplation on characters such as the divine elephants, bulls, mice, lions, Garuda, peacocks and more. The gods have a vehicle that is also offered due respect and reverence along with the presiding deity. The Vāhanas are suggestive of the nature of the power that is expressed by the deities. The exhibition of recent works showcases how the artist has woven a narrative between his current subjects of the Vāhana, blending the traditional Kalamkari style with contemporary art forms, making it a perfect blend of both the worlds. The show is testament to the artist’s exemplary skill, and the fact that there are few Indian artists who have been able to achieve this level of fusion, where traditional, religious iconography has been presented and re-invented in a manner that appeals to art connoisseurs of all sensibilities.
“The main charm of Indian heritage lies in its storytelling. An artist should engage the onlookers by creating mystifying paintings, keeping them engrossed in the stunning artwork,” says Artist Ramesh Gorjala.
"The present body of artworks…center on the mysterious alliance between mundane and divine entities which often negotiate their incidence in the abundantly embellished visual spaces. (Ramesh) Gorjala consciously engages in reorienting the mythical characters by drawing a link between the stories he heard and the animals that are associated with the characters.
"Surpassing all his predecessors who continue to practice it in the traditional manner, (Ramesh) Gorjala tried to reconfigure the schema of painting Kalamkari in acrylic colours on the canvas, tarpaulin and wood notwithstanding the conventional iconography. Unlike the traditional artists, who always placed figures in a syntagmatic narrative panel, he does not confine himself to a solitary, enormous hero in his art pieces," says artist Anand Gadapa about Ramesh's works.
“In his imaginative yet rooted reworking of Srikalahasti’s famous Kalamkari traditions, Ramesh Gorjala creates a religious cosmology in which the bodies of gods bear the images of their own stories. The gods are still, but all the dynamism of life and its narratives energetically unfolds within them. The deity who is worshipped and the epic that tells of his legend come together in a unique flourish.
“Beyond the usual divisions of ‘tradition’ and ‘contemporary’, Ramesh has created a universe that soothes, excites, challenges, pushes envelopes and imparts meaning – all together. The viewer can only watch in fascination as the gods come alive with their own legends,” says Tripat K. Kalra, Director, Gallerie Nvya.
Ramesh’s upbringing amid the craftsmen and artisans in Andhra Pradesh’s Srikalahasti exposed him to art from his initial years. As he took in the surrounding traditional Kalamkari paintings on mythological characters and stories, created on walls, scrolls and fabric in his village, the artist began to use his own distinct interpretation of the mythological stories, to recreate the magnificent deities on his canvas. The intricate detailed work within and around his beautiful figures, made his paintings come alive. Ramesh's education at the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University at Hyderabad honed his art and made him embrace contemporary art in its true sense. Though he parted ways with his traditional medium of vegetable dyes, he mastered contemporary mediums and embarked on his new journey with new mediums.