As compared to the yesteryear’s generation for whom entertainment meant a trip to a cinema hall or watching a TV series, what keeps the millennials effortlessly engaged for hours on end, is the seemingly innocuous Internet.
At the time of its dawn, who would have had even the slightest inkling that the world wide web would one day rule the roost and one would no longer have to turn to any other medium for even a gag?
The meme culture is undoubtedly the top contender in today’s realm of entertainment and has taken over most of the daily dose of content assimilation for netizens. The reason why memes are the new black and have a viral reach is purely because of their ability to make one laugh through the most random and ridiculous everyday situations.
Come to think of it, we live in a time that is heavily charged with memes, so much so that if one comes across one comprising a classical artwork, he or she won’t be surprised!
Except, there is already a dedicated ‘Classical Art Memes’ page on Facebook, which takes a dig at every renowned artist from every possible era—ancient, medieval, renaissance and more—and has quite an impressive fan following!
Closer home, there is one Instagram account that is slowly becoming popular for its hilariously pieced together memes that accurately describe the daily woes of a millennial, and you wouldn’t quite be able to guess who from the bygone era is getting all the fame at this point of time.
Well, it is Raja Ravi Varma!
Yes, you read that right and here are some of the memes based on the legendary painter’s artworks that are bound to make you trip!
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We reached out to the person behind the riotously awesome Instagram handle and were all the more amused to find the story behind how Raja Ravi Varma Memes came into existence.
What had been a submission for the end term portfolio project for an art course at Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum as one’s reflection of the art world, is now entertaining people in the ways they would have never quite have imagined when they would have first seen a Ravi Varma painting.
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“There’s always room for more humour in the world. I have always been very fond of memes and was confident that people in India (and the world) would appreciate art served with a side of humour. What I came up with for the portfolio made me laugh, so I decided to share it on my personal social media handles. I was highly encouraged by those who saw my posts to create an account for the same. The rest, as they say, is history,” says Sowmya to The Better India.
For Sowmya, the objective of the page is to present a new way to enjoy art that has emerged from India. “The average Indian finds ‘art’ obscure. It need not be that way. There is always an entry into art. I want to get more people interested in seeing, learning and enjoying art, so that it adds joy to their lives. My page aims to spread laughter and lighten life’s moments using art as a medium,” she explains.
And it’s not just about randomly picking up the legendary artist’s paintings and adding meme-worthy captions to match it.
A lot of reading goes behind every painting that Sowmya has chosen for the memes, and as a process, it has been a learning curve too. “With every post, I realise what the man achieved in his lifetime, as an artist is awe-inspiring and therefore, I also aim to educate. My page is a unique way to see art that has emerged from India, and to bring Indian art, into pop culture so everyone can enjoy it,” she clarifies.
As much as we appreciate Varma’s paintings for their pioneering aspect of portraying characters in an incredibly realistic manner, which are greatly inspired from his western contemporaries, there is something that is quite amiss when it comes to the depiction of women in his works, and that is what Sowmya also intends to educate alongside.
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“When I started thinking up funny captions for these paintings, what I also managed to accomplish is a way to humanise the women in these images—they went from being a dated depiction of femininity to being the thinking confident Indian women of the present day. This served, for me, as a way to root the scene depicted by Varma in the reality of the India we live in today, which is vibrant, diverse, full of potential and so proud of our new found mindset, which is brimming with all things distinctly Indian versus what was inherited from our colonial past,” she explains.
But why Raja Ravi Varma, amidst everyone else?
“The lithographs from the Ravi Varma press ceased to remain “decorative art.” They found their way into the daily consciousness in the form of calendars, matchbox labels, advertising, textile labels and soap packaging. For the average Indian, these lithographs have come to define what aesthetic human form looks like. However, I am truly a crazy person, and I feel like I live my life in memes. For me, these paintings from a century ago became the perfect canvas to express my thoughts in a contemporary way—because the paintings in today’s context are completely surreal,” she mentions.
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Besides this curious pursuit, Sowmya is an MBA graduate based in Mumbai who has a fulltime job. It was through art that she found a meaning to her otherwise jam-packed life, which further prompted her to explore art more deeply and that is how the art course fell into the picture.
“I strongly believe that art adds to me as a person. It makes me happier. In art, there lie answers to life. The breadth of perspective found in art has opened my mind and helped me cope with even other areas of my life. Art heals. I find ways to stay connected to art and the page is the expression of one of these ways,” she elucidates.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)