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Manifested Unknown Dreams, Epic Journey of an Artist

Why is artwork treated as a mirror, more than a reflection of time, and a cultural product of an artist? A subjective narration transformed into the cultural artefacts of the inner worlds of human interactions happening in a specific time and space. We can answer the question of what art is in this manner.

An artist observes many things, including his\her internal realities, thoughts and the surrounding society and witnesses conflict and contradictions in daily life. The artistic practices spectacularly materialised in the contemporary world and expressed a more personal objective. The Artist is a ‘person’ and echoes his\her world in an artwork more precisely and visually, encountering people and situations candidly. In this short note, I choose an artist from the southern part of India, Kerala, a sacred valley of the western ghats, Ranjith Raman, who represents contemporary art practice mainly in fabrics. 

Interrupted sleep 

Ranjith Raman, a Delhi-based Malayali artist, completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from the College of Fine Arts Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, in 1996. He moved to Ahmedabad, a city that taught him diverse stitching styles and embroidery. The stitches that added to his life in Ahmedabad made him realise in 2002 that city life aided the Artist in expanding his exploration of fabric culture and art in a particular direction and diverse nature. After a short gap, Ranjith joined Masters in Fine Arts from Sarojini Naidu School of Arts and Communication, University of Hyderabad, in 2004.          

Ranjith learned the rich tradition of Indian textile art from various cities, and slowly the Artist realised that embroidery making is a prayer and has the power to conceive the self from that practice. The fabric art and embroidery passages are more abstract than artists believed, an ‘interrupted sleep series’ exploring the walking-dreaming life in clothes and threads. Ranjith works with collected fabrics from various sources in the second-hand (flea) market- the materials used to create work already used by someone else who doesn’t know the artists. The materials connected to the un/identified people who lived in an unknown space in the labyrinth of the cityscape. The artwork’s identity is complex, like the man’s identity in the contemporary world, related to unfamiliar people and their life. Artists called this series ‘stitched drawings‘, tailored human life and the absurdity that belongs to belongingness.   

Interrupted sleep-2 Medium-Hand Embroidery and Machine Stitch on Cotton Size-39X24 inches. Photo: Ranjith Raman

He uses hand embroidery and a sewing machine for stitching to create the interrupted sleep in a miraculous abstract pattern. In this artwork, ‘sleeping’ is a visual experience, an interrupted and abstracted style of a lazy, beautiful act spontaneously narrated by the Artist. Sleep is not only the theme but a phenomenon of mind, carrying us to another world of eternal beauty: dreams. The entire artwork by Ranjith is done in the time of walking life, to remember of dreaming life; the textile art is not an effect of sleepwalking but intense attention to the material body.       

In the philosophy of mind, complete sleep considers a metaphysical death; if the sleeper does not wake up, that will be an actual death. The Artist named his work ‘interrupted sleep’, which means incomplete sleep- a dream; this work is not about death but the dreaming life of the ‘ones’ who dreamed his life. The Artist desired to portray the unsettled mind of every individual conscious about themselves and their living space. We are entirely aware of the things happening around us, and sometimes we cannot react, feel helpless and remain speechless. When we are alone, different thoughts can come to our minds, which is when a lot of conversation happens between ourselves and our inner-self. The Artist tries to depict that state of mind, and he is sure that every individual may go through this state of mind.

The Artist’s passion for the music is also functional in this artwork; a listener of rock in different genres like progressive, alternative and psychedelic, influenced and reflected. The artist endeavour to visualise the music narratives in abstract patterns in symbolic repetition with a beginning and end at one point and the stitched drawings try to find the way of inner music.  

The epic journey of an artists  

Artwork is admiringly bonded with society in diverse routes and portrays that connectivity subtly. In Ranjith’s ‘Interrupted sleep series‘, one can experience social hierarchy, power and exclusivity, rooted in the time of the creation of the artwork and reflected as an abstract physique. 

The epic journey of an artist is evident; the way he learned fabric art from cities and the method he applied in art practice is apparent—the Artist travels from place to place in search of knowledge to discover. This artwork is significant evidence of the time travel of an artist inside the landscape and others; transcultural elements go beyond abstraction. Ranjith uses fabrics collected from the second-hand market as layers and patches in large and small-scale works, which conceptualises the multi-linguistic colourful narrations. 

Sleep is the most repeated ritual in human life and one of the most enjoyable activities; the study about ‘interrupted sleep’ is a monumental representation of the dream of someone who enjoys it well or is disturbed most. This duality is haunting; the end of the darkness comes through, and the light begins to play with our surroundings. Metaphorically, sleep is highlighted with the dark of night and waiting for the kiss of the morning light. In this artwork, the Artist observes and imagines his sleep and replaces or recreates it to study the activity that belonged to humanity. 

“Whether my life had been before that sleep

The Heaven which I imagine, or a Hell,” writes P B Shelley in The Triumph of Life, 1822. Recreating sleep led us to the limitless possibility of remembering reimagined spaces of heaven or hell, where we come from, go, or are created. Life is between the playfulness of heaven and hell, which we made. This interrupted sleep recalls the eternal human questions of these uncertain things or unquestionable spaces.

Feature Image: Interrupted sleep-1 Medium-Hand Embroidery and Machine Stitch on Cotton Size-39X24 inches. Photo: Ranjith Raman

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