Having grown up on a steady dose of Phantom and Mandrake comics, Rasheed Kappan never thought of himself as an artist. Today, his cartoons which could be described as a healthy marriage of acerbic humour and deft artwork are on display at the Indian Cartoon Gallery in Bangalore till August 25. The exhibition titled ‘Newstalgic’ is a compilation of 60 odd graphic cartoons portraying a tongue-in-cheek look at some of the biggest headline-grabbing happenings from the last 3 years. “I’m quite a regular on Facebook and regularly update my status with witty lines about some current happening. I collected 500 such status messages and decided to turn 50 of them into visual art,” says Kappan.
It took Kappan a month to convert digital words to dazzling works of art. “I have used colour for the first time in my cartoons because I wanted to bridge the so-called gap between serious art and cartoons,” says Kappan who has been dabbling in graphic designing for the last 15 years. He believes that his work takes him out of the straightjacket and helps break stereotypes. “The humour I use is social humour. I firmly believe that cartooning has no boundaries,” he says with conviction.
He began his stint in a national daily as a reporter and was sent to cover a workshop on cartooning in 1996. He enrolled in the workshop and fell in love with cartooning. He hasn’t looked back since. “I met other like-minded people and we formed a group called Cartoonist’s Unanimous. We have had several shows in the past decade. In fact, this is my eighth exhibition,” says Kappan, passionately recollecting his foray into the world of cartooning.
Inspired by the works of legendary cartoonist Mario Miranda, Kappan dreams of writing his own book one day. “I would love to publish my own book maybe 2-3 years from today. I want to do a lot of things especially for people who do not have access to cartoons,” he says.
Kappan has attempted something unique by making cartoons for the visually challenged. Called Tactile Cartoons (Touch and Feel), Kappan has used paint that is distinct to touch and added captions with explanations in Braille script below each cartoon. “These cartoons were appreciated by the students of National Association for the Blind (NAB). At present there are only 8 such cartoons on display but I wish to make many more for future exhibitions,” he explains.
Kappan plans to create many more satirical works for audiences in the future. “One day maybe I can put up cartoons on digital format and have digital tablets displayed in the exhibition for people to operate. But then, I suppose, preventing them from getting stolen would become a problem,” he says mulling over possibilities.
While Kappan dreams of futuristic displays, one can’t help but notice a cartoon showing the ‘Android Robot’ riding a bull with the caption proclaiming: “Android is bullish, Nokia is Finnish-ed”.
-Raintree Media Features