Ashish: What is the story behind you becoming an artist?
Ravindra Verma (RV): I was a science student in school. After passing higher secondary (class 11), I didn’t get enough marks to get admission in Delhi. My father, Shri Kishan Verma, was an artist. I used to watch him. I was not very keen on becoming an artist. My father inspired me to go for art. That way, not being good enough in science made me go towards art. My father’s friend Mr Raghunandan Sharma also inspired me. DD Dellalikar was the principal of Indore Art College. He also inspired me. My father sent me there. Shilbharti was associated with Maharaja School of Arts in Jaipur. I got the diploma. I was 20 years old at that time. At the same time, I joined College of Art. I spent seven years completing BFA in Sculpture. Prof. Dhanraj Bhagat was my teacher. Mr Biman Das was also there. Simultaneously, I joined Triveni Art Gallery. Rameshwar Broota was there. I painted there for five years. Then I got a job with Modern School, Vasant Vihar, as a teacher of sculpture. In between, I got a scholarship to go to Italy in 1984. I did a course in paintings and ceramics. Then I travelled to France, USA, Bhutan. I travelled a lot. In 2007, I received a very prestigious award, the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity, by the President of Italy.
Ashish: What inspires you to put your energy into art?
RV: Art is like food. I cannot survive without creating something. It could be painting or sculpture. I have invited groups and people to come and work if they need the platform. I have seen the struggle so I understand their journeys.
Ashish: What materials do you use in your paintings?
RV: I use terracotta, metal casting and fibreglass. I used to do watercolours a lot. Now, I like oil paintings more. I have tried my hand on acrylics as well.
Ashish: Who is/are your favourite artist(s)? And why?
RV: Rameshwar Broota was my teacher. He inspired me. I have done both abstract and figurative. Human concern and satire were some of the themes present. Ram Kumar, Shuja, Morandi, Fontana, are all inspiring. The minimalist approach of Fontan – the pain and agony. Pain is an inspiration for many.
Ashish: As an artist, what do you think needs to be done in order to reach out to more people?
RV: We must interact. Our traditions are old, but art education has not spread much. In addition, there is no proper system for it. Unfortunately, in colleges and universities, art and culture are not taught. It should be there. The European education system introduces art from the beginning. They take their kids to art galleries. India needs to do more in that direction.
Ashish: What differences do you find in the audience of India and abroad?
RV: Very obvious.
Ashish: Is art limited to some classes in India? If so, what are the reasons behind it?
RV: As far as the commercial aspect is concerned, people can afford to buy art, but it is not that a layman cannot appreciate art. The social conditioning also needs to change. There is no appreciation. We started a movement in the 70s – Saturday Art Fair. Suraj Ghai was our leader. On every Saturday, we used to display our art at the Central Park. Our idea was to reach them, if they could not reach us. Artists should create interest among the masses.
An artist cannot survive on art itself. There are middlemen, curators, etc. who have captured our market. Earlier the collectors would come directly to us. The middle-class should have some interest. Artists should also think about it.