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Magazine / Balans Christmas x Renuka Ramanujam

Balans Christmas x Renuka Ramanujam

We loved Renuka Ramanujam’s letter to us with her idea for Balans’ Christmas card you see here. Click to see the picture in full.

Christmas illustration

“Inspired by Salvador Dali’s Les Diners De Gaia, Cinderella’s ever helpful mice, and of course, the storied history of Balans, comes ‘Crimbo Spice Jam’. It explores the role of community in making one of our favourite holidays as special as it is.

 Picture a world made of our favourite Christmas comfort dinner; and we the players, making it as spicy and delicious as it is! Imagine, skiing down a turkey hill with your rosemary skis and poles, leaving a tarragon infused trail behind you. As you race across the smoked terrain, the aromas wisp into chairlifts that carry the next set of ski hedonists to the Carving Knife Ski Tower. This is all to make it in time to get on the Roast Tato train with carrot-y wheels carrying you where you need to go.

Around the side of Turkey mountain, we can see Brussel Sprout-men that have been carefully crafted and the new stations having recently (and sustainably) been built from a half of a pulled Christmas cracker each. As you wander round, you might see Santa’s depot store “The Old Gravy Boat” chock full of presents to be delivered, and the famous Holly twins skating and dancing on Pudding Mountain. As the evening turns frosty, you can head towards the town’s favourite watering holes and diners, Balans No 60 & No 34. In between their unique bottled silhouettes, their chimneys belch champagne fizz; if you look up you may see Santa in his favourite resting spot – a passionfruit wedge shaped sleigh, a glow of orange clouds bubbling as he enjoys his downtime in the champagne showers. If one stands back and observes, you could almost see…a Porn Star Martini? The crowds at 60 & 34 spill out with much vibrance and colour into the town, as they have done on Old Compton Street for decades.”

Renuka’s wonderful Christmas monoprint for Balans is part of our Balans Art Programme (BAP). We commission and champion up-and-coming London artists with fun projects we can collaborate on.

We’re focussing on artists with a connection to University of The Arts London (UAL), where Renuka studied at Central St Martins.

Balans: What is it you love about Christmas and what is it you wanted to express?

Renuka Ramanujam:   The illustration is about all the things I love about Christmas and what I’ve missed in 2020. The fun, the sharing, the together memories.

During the pandemic I think we’ve all realized that people and our relationships are so important.  Christmas is one of those times when we experience that with those we love the most.   I show that by inserting little people into the narrative.’

I love that people come together and take the time to share and give.  Honestly, I love that you can sit and do nothing!  Just opening presents under the tree, watching amazing old films (I tend to do the rounds on old Audrey Hepburn films – Sabrina is a classic), and playing board games!  All of this in the presence of people you love.

For me Christmas was always about being together, food, delicious smells.  Oh and Egg Nog.  Christmas Trees were and are a big icon.

Balans: Tell us about the background to the monoprint

Renuka Ramanujam:  I have a book I absolutely love – Les Diners de Gala by Salvador Dali – his own cookbook!   In his cookbook he has drawn these surrealist worlds through food, some are grotesque, some are poignant, and some are beautiful!  Seeing one thing as another was what kickstarted the inspiration.

Going beyond what we can see and creating new worlds.  I’ve always also really liked The Grinch and Whoville.

I think it was the fun of finding that dual purpose between food and a Winter Wonderland, creating that story with the Potato Trains and the Brussel Sprout snowman.  It all became a little bit nostalgic thinking of the magic in Cinderella – of the pumpkin transforming into a carriage.  This magic makes people smile!

I also like the powdery feel that a monoprint gives and that’s why I chose a monoprint.  Each of them is an individual, slightly different experience

Balans:  In your winter wonderland monoprints are there any details you’d like to point out

Renuka Ramanujam:  So many!  Santa sitting in his passionfruit wedge shaped sleigh.  Look at the silhouette between the two bottles, it’s a cocktail glass and a reference to the infamous Porn Star martini.

The people partying in the Bottle Bars numbered no. 60 & no 34.  (For those who don’t know it those are the addresses of two Balans restaurants in Soho).

The carving knife ski lift stuck in the snow.  The brussels sprout snowman.  The chimney is puffing out champagne showers.

But I feel most appropriately – the little person making a snow angel in the foreground – they’re having the greatest time in a socially distanced setting with the little things.  A mood I’ve come to adopt for 2020.

On top of having fun with the creation of this conceptual world, I wanted to illustrate it in my style. As a textile designer, I believe in
the power of textures to evoke memory, association and feeling. Combining my loose illustrative style with my favoured technique of monoprinting I want to create a collaged outcome that is fun, modern yet unique in its aesthetic. I have also chosen to look at monoprinting as it delivers similar effects seen on some Acid House Rave posters from the 80’ and 90’s, when Balans’ community in Old Compton street was rapidly growing. I have attached some references below that may illustrate a clearer picture, as well as a sample of how I would interpret from my overview sketch into a part of the illustration in the proposed style.

Balans:  Tell us about how you arrived at where you are today

Renuka Ramanujam:  I’m Dutch and I grew up in Singapore so there is a real fusion of things!  You have to decide so young.  I could have read Political Science in California, but I also had a place at Central St Martins.

St Martins was great.  The teaching, the studios and being able to see and learn from the other students.  Design is a little strange in that you all disperse all over the place, but I still keep in touch with people.

I’m still on a journey between fine art and fabric design. I’ve never been very sure where the boundaries are.

In fact I’m moving up to Scotland, to the Highlands, to work for Crubag.  It’s an artist led design studio celebrating oceans and nature. Again, I’ll be looking to express the feelings and ethos of things.  People keep scaring me about the weather and how cold it will be!  Particularly after growing up in Singapore.

Follow Renuka on Instagram 

See Renuka’s website

Find out more about Balans Art Programme

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