in Halftones", article by Pratibha Iyer
Aside Magazine, January 1979
Gandhi was born in Calcutta, lives in Madras and stays in
clouds," so begins an invitation to a photographic
exhibition at the American Centre in Madras; it then goes
on to tell you, ".. he takes photographs and shows
them, also talks
and writes and runs an industry as part of an elaborate
exercise in self-deceit."
The critic bristles. Who is this Ramesh Gandhi and why is
he taunting you to flagellate him? Your bewilderment
mystification as you enter the exhibition hall -- you
have a distinct and uncomfortable feeling of entering a
psychic field. And this, even more than the very obvious
technical virtuosity and aesthetic refinement of the
what makes this exhibition an extraordinary experience.
"Each of these photographs represents a
thought," says Ramesh. The word "thought"
is not accurate, and not a happy choice for
one who professes to be a poet as well. The distinctive
quality of these photographs is not active thought, but
rumination; the photographs do not engage you in
argument, but gently open the doors of perception. A
great and dewy sorrow
hangs over this new world, like mist on a winter morning.
"Oh yes, I remember it now," you tell yourself
as you pause before
each picture, awakening from the somnambulism we often
call life. "Yes, that was how it was," you
You see it all clearly, the mystery and paradox of
life... While one boatman struggles with oars, another
under sail ("Homeward").. While a whole
generation of trees desiccates under the sun, their bare
arms raised to the sky
excoriatingly, another generation of trees rises joyously
over the horizon, their leafy branches rearing in
("Fecund") ...Knotted wire ("Wrung")
drips dewdrops-will they turn tendrils? ...In
"Attic" an ordinary broom left on a window sill
turns out to be the token of some occult visitation.
Another disturbing photograph is "Siesta": a
sleeps (or is he dead?) on a parapet wrapped from head to
toe in a white sheet, but the charpoy next to him is
mysteriously empty -- who "is there that you do not
see? An equally haunting picture is "Ruins", a
passage (thick with dead leaves) between two crumbled
walls, to the memories of other worlds. There is a
premonitory and occult presence in most of these
The exhibition leaves you in a state of puzzlement.
"Yes, I see it all clearly," you tell yourself;
"but again, what's it all
about?" Ramesh tries to sustain the dialogue through
another mediump -- photoprints (naturally; the exhibition
is meticulously organised) of poetry by Ramesh are
displayed along with the photographs. The poems, unlike
graphs, have no great merit, but they are necessary
verbal prods to make you look at the pictures in the
particular way the artist wants you to look at them.
Ramesh Gandhi is a romantic, a dangerous person -- he
won't let the world be!