Ranganath Krishnamani: Rebranding Heritage

Ranganath Krishnamani: Rebranding Heritage

We're very happy to introduce our latest artist on board, Ranganath Krishnamani, who makes his Kulture Shop debut with a stunning series of images that breathe life into a fairly outdated view of Hampi. With his photo-real design work, and his incredible color sensibility, Ranganath is on a mission to reclaim our heritage - be it through series on the long-forgotten cultural landmark, or a meditation on the various objects seen as signifiers of our culture - such as ornately carved wooden doors or even mustaches! We caught up with him for a get-to-know-you chat, about his sketchbooks, his day job at Adobe and his thoughts on design.

KS: You've gone from studying Fine Arts to becoming Head of Design at RedBus after a stint at Adobe. Tell us a little about the journey.

RK: I distinctly remember drawing on the walls of my home as a child. The floor wore a distinct cherry red colour, and it became the canvas on which I started practicing drawing. My subjects were mostly pictures of gods and goddess that adorned our walls, which I tried to copy using basic white chalk pieces. At school, we hardly had a permanent teacher who taught us art. Many times I was asked to draw on the blackboard to keep the students engaged and I pretty much took some of the drawings that I’dpractisedd at home to the school black board, adding my imagination. As time passed, I started taking part in art competitions and won a lot of awards. I got lots of validation and feedback through my early years, as most kids do when they’re trying to understand their skills. By the end of school, I was very sure that I wanted to pursue art for my higher studies. Those days, pursuing art/design was not considered a lucrative career option, but I was fortunate that my parents believed in me and supported me wholeheartedly all the way through. To follow my own course in life and become a designer was the best idea I have ever had because the design was what I did best. What made it great in my mind was that I went with my gut and not with my head.

 Ranganath as a child | Typography Experiments

 Beauty in the ordinary | Initial Heritage Artworks

KS: How different do you think fine art and graphic design are from each other based on your experience with both?

RK: I have always run into to this question of ‘where does design end and art begin’ or vice-versa. In my view, art and design have not just been my building blocks, but are a way of life. It was the only way I knew to express myself and make sense of the world around me. Graphic design is the need to communicate with the primary intention of motivating an action from the audience you’re talking to. Fine art on the other hand, is about communicating an entirely new idea, aiming to inspire a certain feeling/emotion. It’s a medium to have a dialog about something private or a personal point of view to create an emotional bond between the artist and their audience. For me, it has been about taking the idea of motivating an action through topics such as preserving our heritage, monuments, and culture and marry it with a personal touch of inspiration with my own unique style.

Graphic Design inspired by everyday things with strokes of Fine Art

KS: We've heard you're an enthusiastic sketcher. What are your sketchbooks filled with? What are your favorite things to sketch?

RK: My sketchbook becomes a medium to record my surroundings, situations, and thoughts that occur during the process of capturing the scene. Most of my sketches are made on the spot at say, a café, and can be about people going about doing their daily chores, urban landscapes or even objects around me. I stick to a simple ballpoint pen and paper as a medium of expression. What I like about this medium is that there is little margin for error, no way to erase or go back once you started off on a path. The only alternative is to start all over again. These constraints make me concentrate and focus on getting the form and details right. Every line that you add needs to be well thought out as you start adding the various layers to build out the form.

 Some of our favorites from his treasure trove of sketches. 

KS: You seem to enjoy working in series, like your Cities and Door series and the series which seems to be developing. How do you settle on the topics of these series, how do you go about making them?

RK: Deciding what becomes a body of work or series for me starts with the first exploration or idea that I put together. Most times the initial sketch/design starts a debate in my mind. Often times some ideas fall away after the first exploration and few sticks in my mind typically I catch myself revisiting the same subject over again. I start doing research on the idea to understand the context and read up about the subject before building out a few preliminary sketches. I’ve been taking a lot of pictures, and in there are pictures of doorways I took without any specific intention or need at the time. The ‘Indian Doors’ was a series that evolved based on a pattern I noticed while going through those pictures sometime later.

Royal Enfield Explorations

KS: How did the Hampi series come about? Do you have a personal connection that it grew out of?

RK: Hampi (a village in Karnataka, India, located within the ruins of the great Vijayanagara empire that ruled the area from 1336 to 1646) is a great mix of heritage, culture and natural scenery. The play of strong light and shadow on the boulders and rocks, the ruins that standout from scattered boulders and the flowing Tungabhadra river merging into blue skies and green fields create the perfect setting to attract the artist in you. To me, it is a place where I come for soul-searching, and spend a lot of time gazing at the vast landscapes in order to find new inspiration. The ruins build the foundation on which I can base my imagination and piece together the missing puzzles in my mind. These culturally rich heritage sites are typically covered behind pervasive boards, signage and advertisements on the way leading to the monuments. Nor were the souvenirs as intricate, that we could pick them up as collectibles from his travels. My series was also a response to this saddening state.

 From travel sketches to artist series. 

KS: How do you balance your day job at Adobe and your personal artwork?

RK: For me the process of creating these personal illustrations gives me the freedom of self-expression, removing the boundaries of sticking to design briefs, style or deadlines. It allows me to explore, improvise, modify and solidify my thoughts, observations and beliefs. Though my professional work provides little opportunities to bring the sketches into the work, I use them as a way to step away from the routine, get inspired and stay in touch with the world around me.

KS: Where do you feel design and art in India is headed? 

RK: The art and design in India is most certainly on a rise with young designers/artists experimenting with multiple and immersive forms of expression. Many Indian designers/ artist are well traveled and have incorporated new forms of expression in their works, thereby creating designs that marry the past in India with their new-found experiences from the west. Places like KS, in my opinion, provide a huge platform in discovering emerging talents and making the design/art accessible and noticed on the world stage. The biggest differentiator with KS, in my opinion, is that it's run by designers themselves who understand that contemporary design/art scene well and are focused on taking the new Indian graphic design/ art scene to the world.

Typography Design

KS: Lastly, what new projects can people who like your work look forward to?

RK: This series like the ‘Discover India’ for me is always going to be a work in progress since there are many more inspiring locations that I wish to add to this series. I am currently working on a few new projects which include the ongoing series covering the popular heritage sites in Goa and Rajasthan, Pushcarts of Bangalore and the Doors series.

Previously part of the capital of the vast Vijayanagara Empire, the village ofHampi is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bangalore based illustrator and artist, Ranganath Krishanmani lovingly captures the ancient architecture, that makes Hampi such an awe-inspiring destination. Drawing from a warm palette of colors inspired by the locations themselves, Ranganath brings the ruins of Hampi into the 21st century by rendering them in clean graphic forms and vibrant shades of orange, yellow and blue.