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"Meditations in Halftones", article by Pratibha Iyer
Aside Magazine, January 1979

"Ramesh 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 deepens into
mystification as you enter the exhibition hall -- you have a distinct and uncomfortable feeling of entering a mysterious
psychic field. And this, even more than the very obvious technical virtuosity and aesthetic refinement of the photographs, is
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 tranquil
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 recall.

You see it all clearly, the mystery and paradox of life... While one boatman struggles with oars, another glides smoothly
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 thanksgiving
("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 man
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 pictures.

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 the photo
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!

Pratibha Iyer

ramesh gandhi

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