Ravinder Rai and Sebastián Benítez: ‘DIVERSIONS’

DIVERSIONS was a duo exhibition of works by Ravinder Rai and Sebastián Benítez, curated by Devan Patel. It was a Featured exhibition within the 2016 Toronto CONTACT Photography Festival, and was on display from April 28th to May 15th, 2016 at Project Gallery (1109 Queen St. E).

Ravinder Rai is an emerging visual artist based in Toronto, Canada. He is currently completing a BFA in Photography, at Ontario College of Art and Design University. In 2014 Rai participated in the Artscape Gibraltar Point Residency on Toronto Islands. He has also interned at Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto, Ontario.

Sebastián Benítez is a visual artist living in Toronto, originally from Caracas, Venezuela. Sebastian completed his BFA at Ontario College of Art and Design University and has shown at exhibitions internationally.

Ravinder Rai_Unicorn In Captivity_2016

Unicorn In Captivity, Ravinder Rai, (2016)

Q: I love how your and Sebastián’s art works so well together; the pieces fit aesthetically and thematically. How has your creative involvement with Sebastián helped to inform your current work for this exhibition?

When it came to developing the images for DIVERSIONS Sebastián and myself both communicated an interest in using objects to explore themes regarding queerness.  In his work, he traverses the motivations behind “queer objects” and the narratives they perpetrate; in a complimentary fashion my photographs use objects to relay my own experiences and desires as a closeted individual.  We attended O.C.A.D. University together so we understand each other’s aesthetic pursuits and trusted each other’s ability to create an engaging dialogue about queer identity.

Q: Can you talk a bit about how the fanciful and fantastical imagery in your works allows you the freedom to address some of the deeper themes you explore?

I have always had an allure towards the union between melancholia and the fantastical.  Much like there is a certain beauty in some forms of destruction, I believe that the fantastical lends itself to be the vehicle for more sobering themes.  In this sense, the images depict fanciful displays but just beneath the surface they originate from a less wondrous place/thought.

Cruising_Ravinder Rai

Cruising, Ravinder Rai (2016)

Q:  There is a sculptural element within many of your compositions. What does this clever use of visual language mean within the context of your works?

I have always had an interest in objects and the narratives that are generated when a cluster of them are paired together.  So, it was a natural progression to begin to curate these objects in order to control the narratives that they suggest.  Using objects as communicators allowed me to project my concerns onto the still-lifes, while my physical absence allowed me to remain closeted.

Q:  I imagine your photographs as windows onto a larger story, or dialogue. How do you create the scenes that become your photographs, and can you speak a bit about the storyline that exists behind them?

The process behind my images relies heavily on the objects I find and the ways in which I can pair them together to convey gestures of lived experiences, thoughts and desires.  In terms of the storylines being explored the title of each artwork provides a glimpse into their origins.

Q: Who are a few artists who inspire you?

Recently, I have been interested in Fausta Facciponte, Shary Boyle & Laura Letinsky, and their use of objects in their respective practices.

Q: I love how your and Ravinder’s art works so well together; the pieces fit aesthetically and thematically. How has your creative involvement with Ravinder helped to inform your current work for this exhibition?

Thanks! It was a very interesting process. I’ve known Ravinder and his work for several years now, as we both graduated from the same program at OCADU, and I’ve been wanting to collaborate him for a long time. After we were approached to have the show, we sat down and discussed what are the common points in our works, and besides there being an aesthetic dialogue, we also agreed that we both had a tendency to refer to objects as sitters, or proxies, in our work. I think we took it from and started to figure out what were we doing.

Q: Your works have a certain playful humour, perhaps brought about in part by your use of everyday objects when creating the compositions for your pieces. Why do you choose to use these ordinary, often disposable objects,  when creating your pieces and how does this help to express the themes of your work?

In my process, I like to take things outside of their context to see how they operate outside of the space that naturalizes them. In a way, I seek to understand what else is there to these objects and the ways in which we relate to them. It’s partly about the object, and partly about us, and the ways in which we negotiate everyday life and the public sphere.


Metrics, Sebastian Benitez (2015)

Q: What is your process behind the physical creation of your compositions, and then your photographing of them? 

It’s mostly trial and error and a lot of tests. Also collecting (hoarding) objects that I find interesting. Theres usually a lot of tape involved.

Q: I notice that your works are moving into an interdisciplinary realm with your creation of sculptural installations. Can you speak about this shift, or evolution, in your art?

It is something that just kinda happened on its own. I’m still fairly new to installations so I’d say most things are still experiments for me. At some point I started wondering how different would the relation to the compositions be if they were presented as installations in their own right, as opposed to being photographed.

Q:  Who are a few artists that inspire you?

Right now I’d say Dean Sameshima, Sunil Gupta and Martha Rosler.