Ram Karatmal is an intriguing artist, whose patchwork style and mystical women makes you wonder what inspires his imagination.
Here is his story telling us about how he got started, where he finds his inspirations and what we can expect in the near future.
Inspired by the Gods
In a country with thousands of Gods, art plays a big role in bringing to life all the mythological stories. Can you imagine not having a face to refer to for your God?
For many kids, these stories become visual fantasies that inspire creativity in many forms. Ram was one of those kids who used the religious stories as a catalyst to wake the artist in him.
Fascinated with Ramamyan and Mahabharata, he started drawing scenes from the epics the way he visualized it.People around him appreciated his talent, and his mother supported his passion. Thus giving birth to an artist.
Freedom to Paint:
Ram did his Art Teaching Diploma from Maharashtra India Kala Vyavasaya Kendra, Solapur. He followed it with a graduate degree in Art(Painting) from Satara School of ArtDip and A.Ed. from Bharati Kala Mahavidyalaya, Pune. But, life was not easy during those long years of training. Coming from a financially weak family, he used to make sign board to pay for college and support himself.
After finishing college, he got an opportunity to work as an illustration artist for a children’s books publication. It was during this period that he got a scholarship that became the turning point in his life.
This scholarship gave him a monthly stipend of Rs. 5000 and unlimited supply for material to use. While the amount was not big, it allowed him to not worry about his basic needs and channel all his energy into painting. His efforts paid off as he got a national award, followed by many exhibitions.
Ram has two signature style that can be seen in most of his recent work: ‘The Quilt’ and ‘The Tribal Women’
Godhri, a form of dress made with torn clothes, is often referred to as ‘quilt’. The pattern of these quilts has been one of the most prominent themes in Ram’s artwork. While it is made with old clothes, the quilt is usually colorful, made with multiple patterns and random stiches.
His connection with the quilt goes back to his grandmother who used to sew such quilts. He still sleeps with one she made for him and her touch and emotions continues to live with him through them.
When he depicts the guilt in his paintings, it bring out the old emotional attachments with it on the canvas.
How did you start painting the Quilt?
“As a student we were told, no matter what you paint, the painting idea should be yours, it should connect with you. Then, the only thing I had with me was my quilt and I painted it. My advisor told me that ‘this is you, use it to build your art career’. I am still building on the quilt concept and exploring the deeper meaning it has for me.”
The Tribal Women:
“While I come from a small village, the inspiration really came from a movie I was watching about tribal women and their lives. I used to live and study them for a while, trying to understand their ways and lifestyle, what they wore and did. That inspiration I have tried to depict in my paintings.” Movies can sometime leave a big impact on the viewer and sometimes it can help an artists find his source of inspiration.
Why the old, antique look?
“While studying the human forms and ways of life of the tribal people, I got fascinated with the wall paintings of Ajanta. As the wall gets old and scrubbed, the peeling paint becomes a part of the paining’s look. I felt like what if on a canvas I could display a similar effect.”
The unique combination of the tribal theme along with the antiquated affect he applies to the work, gives it a very royal charm, taking you back a few hundreds years to a different era.
She saw my happiness:
“The concept of being a painter, amongst the people I grew up with, was someone who made board and number plates. It was not something parents wanted their kids to do. They would have rather seen me work as a clerk in some office and support my family, then be something ‘alien’ like an artist.”
While my family didn’t approve of my becoming an artist, my mother saw the artist in me and supported my decision to pursue art. Maybe see saw that art made me happy, and that she wanted me to be happy.”
Such is the power of mothers; they can tell by looking at their kids, what the heart really wants.
My Source of Strength:
Ram’s wife, who happens to be a good artist herself, also is his guide and the first judge of his work. His artwork is never complete, without her consent.
When Ram was in his advanced painting course, his mother died. “Everything came to a full-stop. Family had collapsed; he had little brothers to support. There was no room for art in his life.
He had mentally given up on everything, but his Guruji, his advisor in college, convinced him to come back and continue his education. At that point of time, his wife, who happened to be his junior in college then, held him together.
“Whatever I am today is just because of her. She is deaf and dumb, but understands me better than anyone who can hear and speak. She made me want to live and paint again. She is my source of strength and a brilliant Artist herself. ”
What do you like the most about being an artist?
“I live my life all the time, with an open heart and curious mind, without any one enforcing their ideas on me or dictating what I need to do. Most importantly I enjoy my life. And the best part is, my work and pleasure go hand in hand.”
“My happiness and my thoughts are shared via my paintings and to be able to share the share feeling with other people makes me feel good about life.”
Value of an Artwork:
“Whenever you work, focus on what you like, whatever is pure, whatever you want to say and do it with purity. There should be no compromise on that.”
That was the advice given to Ram by his guruji, and since then, his aim has been to be completely honest in what he makes, without worrying about the financial gains.
“Whoever is my art patron should always gets pleasure from my work. His pleasure is the only value for my work. The economic value is transitory and not the true worth of my painting.”
Often people come to view his work, they are not always buyers, but they leave feedback, to tell him how his paintings connected with them, made an impression on them, and that the only thing that matters to him.
Ram plans to continue working on the quilt concept and come up with more fascinating series.
Besides painting, he has also started teaching at a college to share his experience over the last decade with other budding artists. Having taken this big jump into teaching, he has got a new perspective in life and it has helped him learn and discover a new side of himself.
While we look forward to the beautiful ‘quilt’ inspired work by Ram, we suggest you check out this rising art in the Indian art world.