Sculpting the ethos of India, world-renowned sculptor from Visakhapatnam, Ravinder Reddy Gavva talks about his work and life with Yo! Vizag
It’s a quiet neighbourhood away from the noise of city life in Visakhapatnam. As we drive into Durga nagar in Madhurawada, we reach the studio of Ravinder Reddy. A large black gate takes us to a wide open space inside. We pass by various works in progress, and there’s one that captures the attention. The head of a woman in clay looms above us and the large eyes and soft smile seem to have a power of their own. Many other projects in varied stages of progress are around along with large frames that would hoist the pieces together. We enter the building, to be greeted by the artist himself. Soft-spoken and mild, he is a stark contrast to the brightly coloured work he represents. We learn more about him.
Born in Suryapet, Ravinder Reddy had lived much of his early life in Hyderabad where he did his schooling. While he remembers painting as a hobby in school, it was only during his intermediate studies that he decided to take up arts for further study. He enrolled in Hyderabad’s Arts College and followed it up with graduation and post-graduation at the prestigious MS University in Baroda, renowned for its arts. It was there that he was exposed to sculpting, and took to it instantly. “It was between 1975 and 1977 that I tried various materials and mediums and sculpting felt comfortable.” It was a choice that was going to last him for life as Ravinder Reddy further went on to study at the Goldsmith College of Art and Ceramics at the Royal College of Art in London.
Tryst with Visakhapatnam
His sojourn with Vizag began in 1990. After having worked at the Kanoria Center for Arts in Ahmedabad, he had been visiting the city and shares that he fell in love with it. “I just fell in love with the beach, Rushikonda and the plenty of greenery around.” Six months later, the University advertised, and his decision to come here was sealed. “We could be closer to home, and a job at the University gave me time to pursue my creative work.” He joined as the Reader and later became Professor and Head of the sculpture section. Remembering that time, he shares that painting was mostly patronised back then, and there were few students for sculpting. Also, there was much less in terms of equipment, material, and expertise. While the numbers are still much lesser, there has been a shift towards sculpting today, with some of the needs being addressed. “If the amenities are better, more people of good calibre would take it up.”
Women as his muse
While his sculptures deal with varied subjects, a muse he seems to come back to often is ‘women’. Their faces, busts, larger than life depictions or nudes seem to be aspects he turns to. When asked the reason, he smiles, “Because of men like women”. He then adds that while his work is varied, it is the sculptures of women that have earned him the tag. Also for him, they go beyond just being beautiful women. “They represent ethos, culture, positivity and the spirit of India.” With their distinctively Indian features, they represent ethnicity. Even the bright colours he uses, reflect the nation’s love for colour. “Walk into any village fair or take any Indian festival, and bright colours dominate the scenario. Indians like loudness and bright colours while only the upper-educated or colonial go for pastel shades, due to their western influences.” And so he ensures that his art doesn’t escape from that.
Sculpting has gone beyond traditional methods. But the process begins in the mind before it starts in reality. “It all begins with liking some shape, someone’s attitude, or perhaps someone’s forehead”, he shares. The rest is then constructed, based on that one premise. The mental exercise thus commences. Then the actual sculpture is prepared from clay on which the material used for sculpting, is cast. Once the material solidifies and sets in places, he adds the colours that finally breathe life into his work.
With his work renowned all over the world, Ravinder Reddy is busy with his shows most of the time, both in India and abroad. “When you get invited to do shows and people admire the work, you feel more enthusiastic.” Garnering a wonderful response wherever he goes, invites from overseas also ensure that his work is properly displayed and that utmost care is taken for it. He has displayed with prestigious exhibitions like Popular Cultures, Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburg, USA, Incredible India, Le Jardin d’Acclimation, Paris, France and 2008 Grosvenor Vadehra, London in the international circuit. His solo exhibitions in India include Monumental Sculptures, Media Gallery, Apeejay Techno Park, New Delhi and the most recent one in Bangalore. Besides the over 15 solo exhibitions, his work has been part of many group exhibitions as well. A cherished memory with the exhibitions is his show at the Pompidoo Center in Paris four years ago when at the group show, they put up pictures of his work on billboards across the city.
Sculpting, unfortunately, isn’t as popular among people and he shares that in order to encourage the art form, the society should take the requisite steps. For that, public corporations, large centers like the Steel Plant and organisations with bigger stakes should make it a part of their commitment to a healthy city. Only when they come forward, tap the talent and pave the path with opportunity, sculpting talent in the city can be honed. If that isn’t done soon, he laments that talent may choose to go to other places or worse, it may disintegrate. Talking about the artist-personality, he shares that they are varied. “Some are not as adventurous or self-promoting as others, so space needs to be created for promoting all.”
Talking about what he’s currently working upon, he shares that his latest project is with the government of Jaipur. “They are planning on having installations in the old palace, to promote it as a tourist destination.” As people visit the place, revenue is generated.
Time, patience and perseverance are his friends, while his work and art are his expressions. He isn’t afraid to speak out his mind, and though appearing reserved as a person, his work speaks volumes. As a city, we are proud that he walks among us, living as a commoner while making the world a better and more beautiful place with his art, every day.
Indians like loudness and bright colours while only the upper-educated or colonial go for the pastel shades, due to their western influences.