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Meet Raghava, The Artist

Nirmala Garimella

Raghava Kalyanaraman latest exhibition of paintings at the home of Ranjani Sriram offered a glimpse of a talented and creative artist of the most unusual kind. His creativity stems not from a paintbrush but his own hands. This young emerging artist amazed us with his work of art that are at once abstract and figurative evoking varying emotions and calling attention to languid detail. Some of Raghava’s dreamy paintings of his Muse is a subtle statement to the aesthetics and to the myth that woman is its inspiration. The facial features, although barely articulated, embody the proportions of classical beauty. But while there is no image of a particular woman, the face is the embodiment of an ideal

The subject matter in Raghava’s paintings is obvious, yet remains a mystery. Green and browns and pink paint peek out of bare canvas some of them life-size showing the history of the work’s making. The intricate overlapping of the forms, and the varying images of woman create a strangely haunting show . Each one draws the viewer, seduced by the possibility of finding recognizable images within the forms. His works are also labeled with attractive titles that makes one pause and think.

Watercolors are his medium and he uses them freely with his hands. “I do not like to use the usual tools of the artist—the paintbrush, the palette, the knife—I use my hands which give me a sense of incredible closeness to my artwork. My paintings are always spontaneous emotive eruptions of myself in a way”. His paintings take anywhere from one week to 10 days. “I do one layer at a time. I wait for the colors to dry and them start again. There is no particular time that I paint, I chose it as it comes”, remarks Raghava.

Raghava started off as a cartoonist at the age of 17. As an enterprising youngster, he held a series of workshops for young children in Cartooning and helped to get some of their work published. A glance at his cartoons reveal a repertoire of talent and creativity. Most of them deal with socio- economic issues because as he says “Cartooning is a very powerful medium to express your sentiments about social injustice, environmental issues, animal care etc. Thus they can be used to ridicule certain practices or to create awareness.” The cartoons offers insight into Raghava’s personality, his working style and even what momentary view or incidents excite him enough to compel him to capture them on paper

Raghava Kalyanaraman didn’t quite know whether he wanted to be an artist or not but he did know that he could have the freedom to express himself in any way he wanted. The paintbrush seemed a great option in the beginning but slowly he realized that his hands seemed to emote his artistic creations better. Sayeed Raza, Toulouse Lautrec, Shyamal Dattaray have been his major inspirations. Raghava admits that he has been fortunate from the beginning “ I have always been very lucky , I have had good people to promote my talent and get the lucky breaks. My parents unquestionable support has given me a lot of freedom. My mother used to paint a long time ago and my father sketches. My older brother Karthik in Boston has always been supportive and so also my twin brother Kaesava who lives in Australia. Another major inspiration has been Aditya Birla's biography",says Raghava “It has had a lasting impact on me”.

If he is the artist, then Raghava admits that Netra is his muse There is an unspoken connection between the two. Netra Srikanth, a student of Williams College in Williamstown, met Raghava five years ago in Bangalore at a reunion of her mother’s friends. It was a friendship that instantly blossomed and the two kept in touch. When Raghava visited the United States, they spent a lot of time together. The two have now started a company together that will help promote his paintings. Says a bubbling Netra,” My objective is to introduce Raghava into the US art market. Therefore, I contact and meet with galleries and collectors, organize exhibitions, schedule meetings with the above people for Raghava, and fly him to the US from India. This has obviously been a success as Netra acquiesces “Recently we have sold to quite a few serious collectors and have interested several galleries. Three of Raghava’s paintings are currently being exhibited in the ARTANA Gallery in Framingham, MA. We have scheduled several shows for September in the New York and Boston areas also” Netra is currently in Bangalore researching history of slums and doing volunteer work as well as working as Raghava's business partner.

At the heart of the creation of every great artistic work will be the excitement of discovery, revelation, adventure, mystery, and challenge. It is the catalyst that stimulates an artist to produce a work that is meaningful to all. With Raghava and Netra, the combination of all these exist. In their case, like a haiku poem, a well conceived work can make a powerful statement with an unusual and unlikely palette.

To know more about Raghava visit his website--www.raghavakk.com. For further contacts email--raghava@raghavakk.com

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