KK Raghava’s ‘Venice Suite’

A masked figure in shades of brilliant fuschia, coal black and gold looms over you as you enter the lovely, old-style main building at The Hatworks Boulevard. The painting, Masqueraders IV, is part of The Venice Suite, the latest collection from renowned young artist Raghava KK. The collection, which is inspired by Raghava’s travels to Venice is being exhibited at Crimson art gallery.At the preview, the exhibition was opened with a musical performance by Netra, who sang a few of her original compositions. An open-air auditorium, Raghava’s art as the backdrop, and Netra’s sonorous voice resonating in the quiet evening—all of it made for a heady combination and Bangalore’s art lovers relaxed, sipped wine and let it take over.

With its gently sloping wooden ceiling and wood-paneled doors, Crimson is a warm, intimate space and this brings out the startling intensity of The Venice Suite with even greater immediacy. Raghava’s paintings line the corridors outside the gallery as well, transforming the quiet surroundings with their vivid colour and mesmeric images.

Like his other work, The Venice Suite reflects Raghava’s preoccupation with people, their bodies, facial expressions, they way they occupy space or denote movement. All of this finds expression in The Venice Suite and is intertwined, juxtaposed or subsumed by the stark lifelessness of masks. Strong, deep colour and a variety of patterns and textures combine to create surreal, sometimes fantastic, imagery. In Rooted, the strong, fluid lines of a tangled body become a symbol while in Cloak, a mask flung aside creates haunting visual impact.

“I am always inspired by people, the people I observe closely—their facial expressions of happiness, sadness—and this comes through in my paintings,” says Raghava. “I love painting the eyes. They say everything.” Eyes do take centre stage in many of these paintings, evoking pathos, strength and silence. Apart from The Venice Suite, another set of Raghava’s paintings is also on display. These are brighter, dreamlike paintings in watercolour unlike The Venice Suite, where he has used acrylic on canvas. “I am a little schizophrenic,” he laughs when asked about the two sets. “The Venice Suite was a conscious enterprise with larger thematic concerns while the other paintings are what I do all the time,” he says. “They are no less valuable to me though; probably more,” he adds.

The exhibition is on at Crimson at The Hatworks Boulevard till April 21, between 11 am and 7 pm on all days except Sundays.

A version of this was published in the Deccan Herald today.

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