He draws dreams, creates cartoons, sketches society and paints points of view. Raghava KK is a painter, cartoonist, sculptor, designer - a multidisciplinary artist whose critical opinions on society find expression in the absurd. His work is sharp and original; heconceptually grapples with the construct of identity, gender and sexuality within the structures of power, knowledge, and empathy. His central belief is that creativity engenders empathy. Remnants from his days as a cartoonist crop up as caricatures within his work, exposing and exploding the illusions we cling to in our everyday lives. He sees everything through the eyes of the artist, viewing even the elaborate Indian wedding ceremony as an intricate work of performance art. In an intimate tête-à-tête with Raghava KK, we explore the colours and textures of this self-taught artist’s thoughts.
The Fuschia Tree: Who was the first person that inspired you to take up art?
Raghava KK: My mother. She also taught me how to stop and just listen, watch, and appreciate.
TFT: What is your favourite colour?
RKK: I'm into gradients right now. After all, colour is not absolute, it's relative.
TFT: What's the best advice anyone's given you?
RKK: Teaching is the best way to learn. This advice was given to me by cartoonist Ranan Lurie. When you put together a neophyte and an expert, magic happens because they complement each other.
TFT: Do you agree with the sentiment that art is never finished, merely abandoned?
RKK: Yes, but it does not need to be abandoned any more. My new work lives on, breathes, changes and evolves. My art only exists when the spectator chooses to complete it and bring it to life.
TFT: What is your favourite place in the world?
RKK: Where ever my wife and children are.
TFT: Do you imagine the finished work before you start, or do you figure it out as you go along?
RKK: I never know what I'm doing at the start. I only define my constraints. However, I may figure out exactly what I'm creating halfway through the process.
TFT: What was the first piece you sold?
RKK: I don't remember. It's not really significant. I sold thousands of cartoons before I started painting.
TFT: What is the phrase you use most often?
RKK: It's a phrase/idea that I've been propagating and that I believe in: creativity engenders empathy.
TFT: What is the best present you've received?
RKK: My dog Rukumani.
TFT: Which historical or fictional character do you most identify with?
RKK: Calvin from Bill Waterson's Calvin and Hobbes.
TFT: Are you reclusive or social?
RKK: Both; I go through phases.
TFT: Coffee or tea?
RKK: Coffee in South India and tea in North America.
TFT: Paints or crayons?
RKK: Graphic tablet and brainwaves.
TFT: Pastels or primaries?
TFT: If you could live on only four foods (you have these in abundance), including the essentials like salt, water, gin, what would they be?
RKK: Oranges, cherries, apples and Alphonso mangoes.
TFT: You're traveling around the world with one book and one song. What are they?
RKK: A sketchbook and the Tamil song Ennavale from Kadhalan.
TFT: Your most valuable possession?
RKK: My hard drive.
TFT: What were some of the jobs you had when you were young?
RKK: I've never had a job. I did some caricaturing at parties, and cleaned bathrooms and made beds in Rome in exchange for stay.
TFT: What would you tell a lost, young practitioner in your field?
RKK: The best way to be good at something is to keep doing it till you get good at it. Don't waste your time living someone else's life.
TFT: Besides your work, what is the one thing that completely consumes you?
RKK: I'm passionate about the brain and programming.
As told to Aparna Kapur, who writes and edits comic books for a living. In her spare time, she reads, watches and listens to everything in sight.
Raghava KK is a self-taught, multi-disciplinary artist with exhibits all over the world. He is a TED Speaker and has created an iPad art-book.
Most of us are perpetually caught up in a hurricane of questions; questions that tease us, haunt us, keep us tossing and turning all night. We chase them around and around, rising and falling in their dizzy dance. At the eye of the hurricane lies a single question, blinking innocently at us in its stillness. As we enter it, all the rest fall away, and we are left with the only question worth answering.Read More
By Aparna Kapur, Issue 26, Illusion: Seeing Beyond Seeing.