Romicon Revola or Romi as she is known is a contemporary artist based in Bengaluru. Trained as a sculptor, she has experimented with a variety of media. Her work encompasses monumental public sculpture, installation, painting and video. “My work often explores that mysterious, elusive space that lies between the utopian and the dystopian. While suggesting both an intimacy and a monumentality, my approach reflects the paradigm “the personal is the global. I believe that each one of us is a microcosm of the universe,” says the artist.
Romi has appropriated the stainless steel material, often considered either industrial or masculine, to weave narratives engaging with feminine musings. In her recent body of work Cosmic Bloom: Iconography for a Reimagined World Order she seeks to explore new archetypes or perhaps even revive forgotten mythologies as a response to the several inter-connected and tangential issues surrounding sustainability, consumption, geology and ecology. She references subtle dichotomies while alluding to the power of empathy, resilience and nurture.
From 2006 onwards Romi has installed public sculptures and has held exhibitions in Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata, Kochi, Ahmedabad and Mumbai. Her work is in various private collections in India and abroad. She is involved in several art initiatives and community art programs. Romi seeks to explore new archetypes or perhaps even revive forgotten mythologies as a response to the several inter-connected and tangential issues surrounding sustainability, consumption, geology and ecology. Romi references subtle dichotomies while alluding to the power of empathy, resilience and nurture. This iconography proposes an eco-centric world order as an antidote to the current trend of anthropocentrism. The body of work consists of sculpture, installations and video art and is a thematic continuation of the artist’s two earlier series titled Golden Bough and other stories from the landfill (2015) and Future Fossils (2016). Here’s a candid chat with the artist who is making waves not only in Bengaluru but all across the country.
1. Describe your work in detail.
My work often explores that mysterious, elusive space that lies between the utopian and the dystopian. While suggesting both an intimacy and a monumentality, my approach reflects the paradigm “the personal is the global”. Being an artist is often a journey of self-discovery. In the process of discovering yourself you discover the whole universe. Since the beginning I have been interested in this idea of building monuments for posterity; being a sculptor fulfills that desire. In terms of my visual language I aim for brevity and a nuanced interweaving of metaphors, experiences, perceptions and dichotomies.
2. What are you passionate about the most in your work?
What I cherish most about being an artist is the fact that my scope of work is only limited by my choice. Currently my work encompasses sculpture, installation, painting and video art and this is an ever expanding list.
3. How has your work evolved over the years? Have there been phases to your work?
I think that my work has evolved rapidly over the past 10 years. I started out as a sculptor in the modernist tradition. I was mainly interested in forms and compositions. Initially I worked with bronze and steel. My references were drawn from literature, dance and music. Subsequently I worked with stainless steel. I found it intriguing and challenging as a medium of artistic expression. It was a less explored territory so I wanted to see how far I could go with the medium. I explored a wide range of subjects from the concept of infinity to the purity of drinking water in the urban context. In the process my work became more contemporary. After that I experimented with found objects and everyday objects. My work became a response to my daily engagement with my built and natural environment and my urbanity. I’m currently at a stage where I’m responding to it with my own unique amalgam of intimacy and monumentality. In my new work, speaking only in terms of material, I’m going a few steps forward and fusing ancient metals such as gold and copper with new age stainless steel. This coincides with the underlying theme of the new works which is about bringing back an ancient ecocentric value system as an antidote to the dominant anthropocentric system.
4. Presently what is the one unique factor in your work that you think is different from other artists who do work similar to yours.What is the thought process behind creating a piece?
I have come full circle now in terms of my vocabulary. My art practice is filled with experimentation. I don’t pause to get comfortable in any one particular format or technique. I’m constantly challenging what I know and what I say. Well, for the larger sculptures the seed of inspiration always comes from the space itself. For example I made a 25 foot sculpture for Cubbon Park out of a fallen tree trunk. The context in which I’m invited to create these site-specific projects often becomes the starting point. For my smaller works the starting point is invariably an impulse to give form to a fleeting thought, idea, belief or experience. There is a fair amount of research and study that goes into understanding the subjects that I allude to in each body of work. It’s an intellectual journey carried out in parallel with studying the nuances of working with the chosen material. In some cases, as in my Golden Bough series, the material is the driving force. I was inspired by the organic intensity of turmeric. I used the powder to create drawings; the roots to create installations and fused it with other materials to create hybrids that were part biodegradable and part non-biodegradable.
5. What inspires you?
We are all part of the human consciousness and each one of us is a microcosm of the universe. As I journey through life as an artist I externalize my internal musings. I believe in the concept of Pure Potentiality. A silent state of being where anything you imagine can be manifested into tangible reality.
6. How relevant is your work in today’s global scenario?
A bird sings because it is in its nature to do so. I create art because it is in my nature to do so without worrying about relevance. I’m happy to be living in times where any expression of the human experience, artistic or otherwise, is both valid and relevant. In today’s socio-political context it is important for all of us to add to the discussion on our collective approach to life on this planet. In my present body of work, Cosmic Bloom: Iconography for a Re-imagined World Order, I talk about how we need to evolve a new world order – one where values of empathy, cooperation and nurture are seen as powerful instead of weak.
7. Describe yourself as a person – some quirks, likes or dislikes?
I’m a naturally curious person; an autodidact who loves to enter one portal, meander around and emerge at the other end of a completely different portal. It is in these serendipitous journeys that I find my inspiration. I love learning new things whether it is a new dance form or exploring a new genre of music or literature. I also enjoy escaping into nature at regular intervals. I like discovering new cuisines, new cultures and new people for the stories that they bring with them. I enjoy exploring design and I keep abreast of the latest developments in the world of design, architecture, and fashion. I don’t have any strong dislikes as I’m a fairly non-judgmental person. I see myself as a resilient survivor. Losing a parent at a young age and then going on to carve my own path as an artist, are life experiences that have made me stronger. Despite the various challenges that I have faced in life thus far I’m a very positive person and believe in happy endings.
8. What do you see when you look at a tree and a wounded animal?
A tree offers an immediate way of connecting with our natural surroundings. A tree, standing silent like a sentinel, is a symbol of time and the cycle of renewal. Trees are the life line of any city. Each tree is a miniature of the earth itself with its own dynamic eco-system that is constantly growing and at the same time nurturing many other creatures within its fold. As I child I had a lot of pets. I grew up surrounded by all types of birds and animals including rabbits, ducks, turtles, fish, dogs and cats. I forged bonds with them easily and took pains to nurture them to the best of my abilities; it was always distressful to see them in sickness. I distinctly remember my pet rabbit being carried away one evening in the jaws of a street dog that had managed to enter our backyard.
9. Your one passion apart from art.
Art is my all-consuming passion. I cannot think of anything else that I am as passionate about, although I have several interests. It is the vehicle in which I traverse life and connect with a higher realm of consciousness.
10. What does colour signify to you?
Colour signifies emotion. It also has the power to change the viewer’s emotions in an immediate way, much like music. Colour is the easiest way to connect with a work of art. I use strong colours in most of my works. The use of colour is deliberate and empowers my sculptures to speak volumes.
11. Can your art be political?
Yes and No. Art that makes a political statement is in itself not activism. It is an expression, an artist’s personal viewpoint. There is a criticism against this kind of art saying that its viewership is limited to a small group of gallery visitors who are already empathetic to the cause, hence how can it bring about any change? In today’s globalised world art can be used to disseminate information to a large audience. In addition to the small group of gallery viewers the art show usually gets written about in mass media and social media. These channels carry the idea to people who may never step into a gallery or have no interest in art at all. Artists generally offer a non-linear, more abstract way of looking at a particular social issue which helps in reflecting upon it to bring about a better understanding of the problem. It offers people a chance to stop and look; to reflect and perhaps shift one’s perspective. As I said earlier I’m neither seeking utopia nor crying hoarse about dystopia. I’m somewhere in the middle.
12. Is your work only categorised as art? Or could it be considered design as well?
Design is always rooted in function. This underlines the parameters involved in creating the design. Art on the other hand is not dictated by function. It is usually personal, spontaneous and evokes an emotional response from the viewer. My core focus has always been about externalising an internal idea, hence it cannot be considered design. Due to the high level of skill involved in constructing some of my works it may be confused as a design object but closer inspection will reveal otherwise.