Musical Journey of the Paintings of Ratnadeep Gopal Adivrekar for Richard Wagner’s ‘Ring’

It is well known that Friedrich Nietzsche dedicated his momentous treatise “The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music” in great veneration to Richard Wagner in 1872, later it shall mould into rejection. He believed in a possible renaissance of the ideals of classical Greek art in his music. Based on Wagner, he coined a new concept of art that distinguishes between the Apollonian and the Dionysian. The Apollonian follows the dream, the ideal of the ancient body, and the construction principle. The attributes of god Apollo are light-filled truths, protective of music and spring. Dionysus, as the god of wine, stands for excess and proclaims dance and state of exception where man does not create art but is transitory and art himself. In his early work “Dithyrambic Painting” from 1964, the painter Markus Lueppertz expressly referrers to Nietzsche, as many artists have referred to Nietzsche and Wagner over and over again. Narrative and mystifying, associative and dialogical do both strands, the Apollonian and the Dionysian, merge - being ringed by Ratnadeep Gopal Adivrekar’s interpretation of Wagner.

The myth of Wagner, the Ring and the festival tradition of Bayreuth motivated a whole series of works by the painter Ratnadeep Gopal Adivrekar. Instantly, we think of the exuberant Indian mythology, draw comparisons and cross-cultural considerations, imagine Wagner’s cosmos bound to the Hindu pantheon and are all of a sudden right in there: in a flowing, shimmering and kaleidoscopic imagery. This is the world of Ratnadeep Gopal Adivrekar. The incomparable per se is domesticated by the prismatic intellectuality of this artist: he collages and sets pictorial elements from the icons of European art history as for example Diego Velázquez, Jan Vermeer, Gustav Courbet and Marcel Duchamp in almost film-like paintings. Their stories render infinite – yet, we recognize the original scenes but apprehend them somewhat different in a new constellation and not in their original singularity. In this context, the elements linked by the logical composite structure of Ratnadeep Gopal Adivrekar, lead to the present of the future whilst preserving the past - therefore, this ingenious artist pursues a process of historico-philosophical painting.

In a contemporaneity of artists of conceptual art, participation and appropriation art, the artistic method shown is based on citations and simultaneities from various image archives that also provide sponsorship. They originate from the European painting, advertising, history, film and popular culture. Inspired hereof, treasures are recovered from old pages which now convey new motifs. The slogan seems to be: what is not made visible again, disappears in our presence and will be forgotten and lost. As a curator, arts collector and painter, I visualize everything I know about this world; that is my definition of art.

We may call the style of the artist a postmodern discourse or a clear distancing to the traditional Indian art or the installations of western conceptual art. The exceptional of his work is its devotion to the world of iconography and iconology. It is and it shows the picture in the picture and stands in the tradition of European art history that is known since Jan van Eyck’s ‘The Arnolfini Wedding’.

UNA H. MOEHRKE, Berlin, May 2013
(Excerpt from The Golden Ear Catalog, 2013.)

When Sound becomes Vision

Thrasymachos: Tell me now, in one word, what shall I be after my death? And mind you be clear and precise.

Philalethes: All and nothing!

Thrasymachos: I thought so! I gave you a problem, and you solve it by a contradiction. That's a very stale trick.

Philalethes: Transcendental knowledge is knowledge which passes beyond the bounds of possible experience, and strives to determine the nature of things as they are in themselves. Immanent knowledge, on the other hand, is knowledge which confines itself entirely with those bounds; so that it cannot apply to anything but actual phenomena. As far as you are an individual, death will be the end of you. But your individuality is not your true and inmost being: it is only the outward manifestation of it. It is not the thing-in-itself, but only the phenomenon presented in the form of time; and therefore with a beginning and an end. But your real being knows neither time, nor beginning, nor end, nor yet the limits of any given individual. It is everywhere present in every individual; and no individual can exist apart from it. So when death comes, on the one hand you are annihilated as an individual; on the other, you are and remain everything. That is what I meant when I said that after your death you would be all and nothing. It is difficult to find a more precise answer to your question and at the same time be brief. The answer is contradictory, I admit; but it is so simply because your life is in time, and the immortal part of you in eternity. You may put the matter thus: Your immortal part is something that does not last in time and yet is indestructible; but there you have another contradiction! You see what happens by trying to bring the transcendental within the limits of immanent knowledge. It is in some sort doing violence to the latter by misusing it for ends it was never meant to serve.


After reading Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Representation, Richard Wagner (1813-1883) wrote 'I came to understand my own Wotan'.2 It always is cycle in which art, philosophy and understanding revolves in.

From the earliest of known origins of opera in 'Dafne' by Jacopo Peri written around 1597, operas have come a long way exploring the centuries-old tradition in which the emotional power of music is linked to the human issues that can be enacted as stories. Opera transported the audience to a unique world created by the librettist, composer, singers, and musicians, and we are invited into this same world, where they grapple with these same compelling original social and political issues.

Ratnadeep’s references are historically, culturally, and geographically diverse based on philosophy, myth. He engages with specific points and moments in history to address universal themes and concerns that begin to overlap and bleed into one another. The exhibition highlights Ratnadeep’s diverse literary and poetic inspirations, from the philosophy of and the music of Richard Wagner. Examples of the influence of music on art are as iconic as they are profuse. The enduring fascination of his works arises from his singular fusion of musical innovation and theatrical daring, but also from his largely overlooked engagement with the boldest investigations of modern philosophy.

Ratnadeep's enthusiasm for the revolution and his involvement in the new social order is present everywhere in the exhibition. Converting timeless opera into timeless paintings that blurred the boundaries between art and life through a radical exploration of collaboration and interdisciplinary. Rather than trying to create depictions of what he experiences, Ratnadeep uses his synesthetic 3 experience in guiding him towards creating images that are philosophically narrative as he believes music exists in heard.

Ratnadeep embraces the ambiguity of his practice, opening up a discursive space between past and present, art and opera, the self and the collective. His paintings exist within this psychological space, straddling symbolism and abstraction, painting from both personal and collective iconographies. The artist's laborious painting is evidence his compulsive attempts at articulation, producing meaning in the physical act of production and reproduction. Because one of the fundamental characteristics of music appears to be its 'process' character, transcending the traditional metaphysical subject-object division through its immersion in transitory temporality.

Ratnadeep favors the diptych, which regularly produces paintings of two entirely disparate halves. The disparity establishes the basic tension of each picture, a tension that is further amplified by specifically incongruous image combinations. Multiple thoughts are presented through divided vision, to represent conceptual trajectories between historical and contemporary experiences. These diptychs run like leitmotifs, a dialog between unconscious and conscious, rational and irrational, improvisation and method, construction and deconstruction. With these two halves the “new born image” is the witness of this exchange.


(Excerpt from The Golden Ear, 2013.)

Visual Consequences of Encounters with Time

An archivist of self and collective memories, Ratnadeep draws references from photographs of various significant moments from the history. He believes, photography allows human beings to separate an experience of the memory from a particular time and place. The time when a historical event occurs, it is experienced by their participants and is preserved in the memory of mankind and this kind of time differs from the relative present time. He relies on the importance of studying the past to see how ideas have been passed down and reinterpreted throughout history, synthesizing ideas to infinite possibilities.

In the current suit of works, Ratnadeep uses a photograph as a central theme, integrating them with symbolic concepts of time, infinity and dimensions and so on. These symbols are placed all over the work like a contrived puzzle, placed in relation to each other to form a co-ordination of the co-existing symbols. This can be explained according to the theory of ‘asti-nasti-va’ from Jain doctrine; two contradictory propositions can intelligibly be related to the same thing. It is possible to affirm of the same thing that ‘it is’ and ‘is not’ at the same time.

(Excerpt from Visual Consequences of Encounters with Time Catalog, 2013.)

Allegorical Spectrum – 14 Proverbs

‘Every Move brings a Change’ – The change which the proverb undergoes in the course of its evolution in the work passes from a subtle to an engross state – the existence of the manifold, is the oeuvre of Ratnadeep Gopal Adivrekar’s exhibition titled “Proverb In(ter)vetions”, at NUS Museum, Singapore. For the artist living in Mumbai a metropolis, a melting pot where the world's great religions are practiced brings along its own cultural baggage but wisdom is one familiar occurrence which cuts across these several practices. Much new knowledge is admittedly remote from the immediate interests of the commonplace man on the street. The void of these academics is completed by one liner wisdoms or proverbs. The universality and philosophies in these proverbs was what got Ratnadeep interested. Proverbs embrace the wide sphere of human existence: the philosophical antiquary may often discover how many a proverb commemorates an event which has escaped from the more solemn monuments of history, and is often the solitary authority of its existence.

(Excerpt from Allegorical Spectrum – 14 Proverbs, Art & Deal Magazine, 2009.)

Many contemporary artists are aware of controversial political and celebrity figures of the past. Along with the increasing turbulence of our societies, they are also concerned with the future of their nations. Consciously breaking away from traditional arts and cultures, many young artists prefer to pursue bolder and socially realistic subjects. Thus, it is common to see various world leaders dressed in mocking fashions, figures of women depicted in provocative poses, two dimensional contemporary landscapes, raw human expressions, localized sociopolitical scenes, regular citizens consuming popular brands, animation dolls and computer generated robotic images on canvases.

On the other hand, despite the recent excitement of the “contemporary arts”, many Indian contemporary artists have chosen not to abandon their traditional artistic elements. Instead, they are proud of their traditions, and dream of expanding their cultures while incorporating various contemporary life concepts into their arts. Utilizing a strong foundation in religion, literature and philosophy, Indian artists continuously strive towards creating innovative presentations of new abstract ideas. Such radical methodologies often yield brilliant and compelling artistic expressions. One such promising and talented young artist is Ratnadeep G. Adivrekar.

Born into the family of a prominent artist, knowledge has always been greatly emphasized in Ratnadeep’s life. Growing up in a culture where old literary philosophical wisdom is often not easily understood by common men on the street, Ratnadeep feels the importance of simplifying the academic aspect of the universal truth. Wisdom in a manner of proverbs is widely accepted. It is because many of these proverbial wisdoms reflect the verity of nature, which hold the answers to the many problems in human existence. For many generations, though wisdom has become a familiar concept; unless one is insightful, its understanding and real life application may not be useful. To Ratnadeep, human relations is not based on a single linear model but a set of complex interactions fueled by personal experiences, expectations and interpretations of one another’s actions. Just like a close parachute, a person who is not willing to open his mind to new possibilities will find his intelligence void. Based on the ideas of perceptions and reality, Ratnadeep wants to portray the existential human condition through the instantaneous coexisting chronologies in one’s life. Motivated by his viewers’ artistic appreciation, Ratnadeep strives to evoke the memories and visual intelligence of his viewers through his artwork.

(excerpt from The Existential Human Condition, Asian Art News, April, 2009.)

14 Proverbs

The allusions to universality and philosophical intricacies contained in these proverbs was what got Ratnadeep Gopal Adivrekar interested. The proverbs in this exhibition are accompanied by a string of qualifiers, by the occasional if and but, constantly seeking to create, perhaps even project an ambivalence. However, such a strategy is approached with caution, for to enter too many qualifications in an exhibition of this kind would be to bury the viewer under an avalanche of indecisiveness. Rather, the artist has taken the liberty of expressing, and even trusting that the reader of his works will understand the stylistic nuance. The artist, having experimented with a wide range of styles and subject matter, brings together metaphors from contradictory or unpredicted sources, both historical and contemporary, by using diverse materials and techniques. Ratnadeep’s artistic diversity and his resistance to simple classification can be seen as a consistent recurring premise in his work. Ratnadeep uses the richness of symbolism nevertheless eluding the mysteries of logically understandable things... Ratnadeep’s work and the proverb theory are presented here – not as final word, but as a first approximation of the new realities.

(excerpt from 14 Proverbs, Proverbial In(ter)ventions: Ratnadeep Gopal Adivrekar, Exhibition Catalogue, Singapore: NUS Museum, 2009.)

Proverbial In(ter)ventions

My first foray into contemporary Indian art, curating Ratnadeep’s exhibition has been immensely fullfilling. The works render themselves to such multitudinous readings that each encounter continues to ‘haunt’ but also perplex.

Writing across the figurative expressions of the avant garde or defining moments from history or history of art for one frame juxtaposed against a second frame which illustrates a political or socio-cultural episode from world history, it is not easy to locate the work of Ratnadeep Gopal Adivrekar within the seemingly established contours of intellectual and artistic work emerging from non-territorial Mumbai. From his first solo exhibition Memoirs of the Unreal City (1997), his oeuvre spans a broad “culturalist” perspective, including philosophical work on exposing the constructed nature of postcolonial identities and the cultural effects and affects of the unconscious. In his most recent series, Ratnadeep extends this intellectual commitment further with fervent paintings which represent a part re-working of the diptych, but also as an intensely symbolic interactive play which deploys everyday proverbs as strategically inventive bases setting off a complex play of encoding and decoding between the artist’s own conception of the proverbs and its visual translations on the canvas. The encounter between audience, space and artwork becomes mitigated by each new frame which is only but a device to encode the meaning of the other…

(excerpt from “Proverbial In(ter)ventions: In Dialogue with Ratnadeep Gopal Adivrekar” in Proverbial In(ter)ventions: Ratnadeep Gopal Adivrekar, Exhibition Catalogue, Singapore: NUS Museum, 2009.)

Viewing Ratnadeep’s Suite of Works as a Cultural Object

Ratnadeep’s compositions appear like reinventions of the diptych. He juxtaposes two independent scenes within a single canvas. The neat framing of each scene gives the canvas the appearance of a diptych as opposed to a “collage”; the latter typically consists of multiple scenes or compositions which are arranged at best in a haphazard fashion. The two neatly demarcated visual frames, characteristic of this series, also become crucial devices for the encoding and decoding of the proverbs/text which drive the final image-making in this series.

Ratnadeep mostly chooses avant garde or defining moments from history or history of art for one frame. This frame is juxtaposed against a second frame which illustrates a political or socio-cultural episode from world history. This sets off a complex play of encoding and decoding between the artist’s own conception of the proverb and its visual translation on canvas, which as we have seen is aided by an alternative scene from history/art history. For the artist, each frame becomes a device to encode the meaning of the other. These frames, in turn also become devices for decoding the content and meaning of each other on part of the viewer…

(excerpt from Viewing Ratnadeep’s Suite of Works as a Cultural Object, Proverbial In(ter)ventions: Ratnadeep Gopal Adivrekar, Exhibition Catalogue, Singapore: NUS Museum, 2009.)