Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Group show: Small is Beautiful


I am participating in the group show titled 'Small is beautiful' at Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai.
The show is conceptualized by Kalpana Shah and it presents works by several artists. The focus is on smaller sized artworks in the artists' respective styles. Two works by each participating artist can be seen in the show.

The show will be on till 15thJuly,11a.m. to 7p.m. (including Sundays). Please check this fantastic group show if you are in town. For those who cannot make it, here are my paintings which are a part of this show!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

R.I.P. Paul Jenkins

Artist Paul Jenkins passed away in New York on 9th June 2012 at the age of 88. Jenkins is one of the important artists classified as lyrical abstractionist painters. Lyrical abstraction is a movement also classified as painterly abstraction. Jenkins is well known for his signature fluid painting style. The term lyrical abstraction seems very apt when one sees his beautifully colored, rhythmic paintings. His paintings have been collected by several renowned art collections and museums across the world.

Here are some of his most remarkable works. But before that here is a clip from a 1978 movie called 'An unmarried woman', where the movie makers have used Paul Jenkins’s studio to film this scene. The painter in the video is not Jenkins himself but an actor. It is a rare chance to get an idea on how Jenkins might have painted his unique large scale fluid paintings in his studio.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Andrea Belag: Interview

It is my immense pleasure to post the interview of one of my favorite artists, Andrea Belag. I have been following Andrea’s work for a couple of years now; I love her exotic paintings full of vivid brush work, her amazing selection of colors and the light evident in her paintings. In this interview she answers my questions in great details sharing deep insight into the various aspects of her process. She also gives some important pointers which could be very helpful to young artists. With this post I’m also sharing three of her most recent paintings.   
Andrea lives and works in New York. Besides painting and regularly exhibiting worldwide, she is also a lecturer at the School of Visual Arts, New York. You can see her paintings on her website.  

Q. 1 DB: You have a very interesting color palette spanning across your paintings, and within each painting I see there is an engaging internal color play. Where do these colors arrive from?

A. AB. I prefer transparent colors and I try to vary the temperature and value of the colors within a painting. With transparent colors I can focus on the light in the painting, which is crucial for me. The pigments tend to be newer chemical pigments as opposed to classic colors. Perylene red, for instance, was developed for car manufacturers. I occasionally use an earth color but generally they are too opaque.
I can also get a range of temperatures with a single pigment by varying the density of the paint.  I like the emotional punch of using a full value range in each painting. I first observed this in Van Gogh’s paintings and more recently in the paintings of the German Expressionists.
Early Film Noir films in color and Technicolor films have a high- pitched palette and I have taken many color ideas from these films.

Q. 2 DB: Do you define your work as gestural? How do you describe your painting process?

A. AB. No matter what I think, people describe my paintings as gestural so I may as well own it. What is important to me about using marks made from moving my arm is that it is a way of putting myself directly in the painting. My paintings have also been described as a performance, albeit, a very private performance. Most of the paintings are completed in one working session and they are painted in one layer wet into wet paint. Therefore, I need to concentrate fully. It is a rigorous way to work and I often fail and the painting gets destroyed. But I think as I destroy second and third best paintings it pushes me along to make more bold and revealing images.
I was just listening to a recorded interview with Agnes Martin and she claimed that she is not interested in ideas just inspiration. I think you need both. I often have to discard whatever initial image or idea I have and work through many tropes until I invent something new for that painting. If that happens I am satisfied and if not I reject the painting. It is a hard way to work and recently a colleague, Suzanne Joelson, described my paintings as dangerous. It is certainly a good metaphor for my painting process.
That said, I am also interested in using forms other than gestures in my paintings and I am investigating different modes of working. I will experiment with new ideas with works on paper this summer.

Q. 3 DB: Your drawings have a clear inclination towards paint that finally manifests in your paintings. Do you see drawing as a subset of a larger process of painting or does it stand separately?

A. AB. I teach drawing and I think it is an essential process. But in my work I try to develop drawing ideas that can be part of my oil paintings. These days I draw in a traditional drawing medium – watercolor- and it enables me to use a brush, which is a non-linear tool. I think of the decisions I make in each watercolor as drawing decisions: What is the size and scale the stroke? And how does it read as part of a spatial configuration?
Photography and the computers generate visual information which is used as “the new drawing” for many artists. Whenever I get stuck I look at something, usually a photograph or an older painting and I try to draw in new information. But I always use a liquid medium so I can involve a little chaos.

Q. 4 DB: I feel that your work has a very unique feel. What do you think makes them appear so unique?

A. AB. What I see that distinguishes my work from other painters is the light in my painting.  My subject is light, more or less, and the way I paint with a liquid film of paint in one layer, wet into wet allows light to come through the hues.
I always felt it was important for a painter to find a singular way to use materials in order to make their work original. At least it is the beginning of originality.

Q. 5 DB: How do you classify your work? Do you call them abstracts or non-objectives? Also do you think ‘color field’ painting can be used to describe your work?

A. AB. I refer to myself as an abstract painter. It may not be an adequate term but the New York art world uses it and I follow suit. Non-objective sounds like an historical period. Non-representational may be better because it puts the emphasis back on the painting to be just what it is. It is very hard to look at a painting, however, and not see associations if not in a form then in a space. If I see something overt however I eliminate it while I am working and push towards something less familiar.
Color field painting didn’t evolve into a big moment in painting history. Probably because the audience for painting shies away from color and the drawing involved in the paintings did not sustain development.
I am teaching a class called the Abstract Image that includes a broad scope of approaches and I open the concept of abstraction to include whatever is necessary for a student to develop their work.

Q. 6 DB: Which artists inspired you in your journey? 

A. AB. I grew up in New York and the major Museum collections here favor French painting. The first time I saw a Matisse at the Museum of Modern Art I was riveted and he will always be my most significant influence.
Travel is a big part of my life and it has brought me to many places to look at art close to where it was created. There is no substitute for this experience. As a student I traveled in Italy to see Cimabue, Giotto, and Piero Dela Francesca, which I needed to see. I realized after that trip that I needed to go see artwork several times a year in different locations.
In the 1990’s I began to show frequently in Germany and that engaged me in the work of the German Expressionists and the ambitious work of German contemporary painting.
German Expressionism and my love of cinema brought me right to Film Noir and that became the underlying subject of my work for several years.
At this point I am interested in the pluralism of contemporary art and I spend more time visiting contemporary galleries.

Q. 7 DB: When arguments like ‘painting is dead’ surface every now and then, usually ‘Abstraction’ receives the first blow of harsh criticism. Do you think that painting, and ‘abstract’ painting in particular is in danger? 

A. AB. The audience for painting is smaller and the audience for abstraction is the smallest. Most people don’t know what they are looking at and it difficult to write about. However, the quality of abstract paintings right now is extraordinary: Amy Sillman, Donna Nelson, Mary Heilmann, Stephen Westfall, Albert Oehlen, Christopher Wool, Howard Hodgkin, Stanley Whitney, Katharina Grosse, Joanne Greenbaum, and Gerhard Richter, are some of the painters who are advancing painting and abstraction.
Will abstract painting continue? I think the physical conditions that are necessary for a painter to develop her/his work are becoming more and more difficult for young artists to attain. I think art forms that require less real estate and funding are more popular among young artists. It also takes many years to mature as a painter and artists have to find a way to take care of themselves through different economic conditions if they are to keep painting.
It is hard to devote your life to working on something that is about nothing but for me it is everything.

Q. 8 DB: Where do you think we are going? What would you like to advise young artists?
A. AB. I see the model of professionalism as the mode for artists and there is increasing emphasis on the use of technology. Artists are rebels so there may be a backlash against this and therefore it is hard to predict the future. These trends are affecting all fields so it is the contemporary paradigm.
My advice to young artists is to do what they are passionate about.

Q. 9 DB: Do you recommend any ‘must read’ books or any specific artists who should be studied as a part of the learning process in art?

A. AB. Read everything; a life of passion needs to be nurtured with information. I have always loved biographies because they include history and generally I spend more time reading non-fiction. I read art criticism but I don’t see great artwork coming out of theory.
This summer I will be reading Proust with a small reading group.

March 25, 2012

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Art workshop for the tribal school

My artist friend Raju Deshpande and I are just back from an art workshop we conducted for the residential primary school located in the Bhimashankar forest area, around 200 km away from Pune. ‘Vanadev’ school is a residential school with around 40 kids (from std. 1st to 4th) from Mahadev-Koli and Katkari tribes. It is a fantastic small school run by the social organization ‘Shashwat’, and is one of their many initiatives for the tribes in these parts. Shashwat is an organization of highly passionate people who really understand the ways of these tribes and have expert knowledge about the terrain.

Raju and I were quite excited about this workshop and were looking forward to spend a day exploring drawing, painting with these kids. When we arrived at the school we realized a very interesting aspect of the way the school is run. The teachers informed us that this workshop would not be mandatory for the kids, and the kids were free to opt out of the drawing exercises we conducted. I thought it was great that this freedom of choice was offered by the teachers to such a young age group. Thankfully almost 95% of the kids decided to participate, and that was good news for us :) Many of our participants were using the painting brush for the first time, but they picked up the skill fast and were soon coloring away with water based liquid colors on paper and were making graffiti on the wall. The paintings and drawings were very beautiful and diverse as you can see from the pictures in this post!

The kids were free to choose their subject and style. They drew ponds with floating lotuses and large fish like the typical sweet-water fish that are normally found in the lakes nearby. The kids painted houses with decorative doors very similar to the actual houses in the village, and they drew snakes, monkeys, peacocks and trees around these houses. Some unusual subjects like people travelling in small trucks with luggage loaded on top, or the mammoth wall of the dam also made an appearance in the paintings. All very beautiful and very colorful!

The kids enjoyed the workshop and so did we. It was very interesting to see how the kids translated their surroundings into their drawings. Here are pictures of some of the fun moments from the workshop. We will certainly be visiting our young friends again and hope to explore more art and ideas with them! :) 

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

R.I.P. Antoni Tàpies (13 December 1923 – 6 February 2012)

One of the geatest Spanish artists from the post war era, Antoni Tàpies passed away on 6th February 2012 in Barcelona, Spain at the age of 88. R.I.P dear Tàpies.

It is difficult to choose the right words to describe Tàpies’s work, and to classify it only under ‘Art Informel’ or ‘Tachisme’ feels inadequate. I think he is one of the greatest expressionist artists of our time. Some artists leave their influence over the generations to come, Tàpies is one such artist. Not just Spain but the entire art world loved him and cherished his fantastic paintings.

 Marble dust, sand, rags, earth and all the other materials that Tàpies used in his art have created an artistic language that speaks about a fundamental understanding of our own existence. His work is pure, honest and a very stark statement about our constantly changing surroundings. Wars, atom bombs, politics, industrialization – all part of our changing world demand a huge toll on our sensibilities. Not that everyone has to take a note of it, but many artists attempted addressing these concerns across the world. I feel Tàpies belonged to that generation and is among the very few who really succeeded in expressing these views boldly.

Shades of grays, muddy browns and stark black- all sifted from different  material powders were Tàpies’s armada of colors in his long and dedicated journey as an artist. He molded colors and forms to speak his language, and what was created was truly majestic.

A dedicated museum in Barcelona called ‘Fundacioantonitapies’, holds one of the largest single collections of Tàpies’s artworks. 

There is quite a bit of literature about Tàpies in books and on the internet. Also many of his very interesting paintings can be found online. I recommend you to ‘discover’ your own Tàpies in case you have not done that already!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Michael Whiting: The ‘Dynamic’ Pixelation

Dynamic pixelation – now this really sounds contradictory doesn’t it? If you were brought up during the times of the early generation computers with their economical interfaces and old time gaming graphics, you will probably remember the dithered, pixelated imagery of these machines. These machines were the cutting edge of technology then and most of us rejoiced at this pixelated stuff. But it did not take very long for technology to evolve and that minimal pixelated graphics simply disappeared from ‘everyday gaming’.
Michael Whiting is an American sculptor based in San Marcos, CA who preserves those good old pixels in 3 dimensional metal sculptures. These sculptures are simple and wonderful and he succeeds in giving that old imagery a technological retro feel in quite a monumental fashion. I have seen Mike’s sculptures online several times, and have always wished to see such beautiful sculptures in public spaces in India (which is otherwise dominated by dead politicians or historical heroes molded in conventional bronze. If not these then there are the ghosts of forgotten wars in the form of rotten tanks and airplanes which hog the public gardens. But that’s altogether a different story; we’ll keep it for some other time.)

Mike takes his inspiration from early generation computer graphics, but it is evident that this works as a point of reference for his work and is not a subject. He has transmuted this basic inspiration to create a fantastic minimalism and a clearly legible visual language. I feel that it is his great achievement. Sometimes ideas can be simple and perhaps easy to execute but their impact on the viewer is long lasting. Mike’s sculptures clearly belong to this category.
 Mike creates his sculptures with welded steel sheets and industrial enamel paint. Birds, animals, people and everything else is re-imagined in a pixelated style, welded using steel and painted with nice bright paints. Alongside the sculptures he also creates paintings which follow a similar theme; you can see these on his website and blog.

I hope you will enjoy Mike’s work as much as I did! I’m definitely going to see his sculptures for real in my next trip to the US whenever that happens!
Thank you Mike for the permissions and for sharing the images with the blog. Mike is represented by Edward Cella, LA and Plus Gallery, Denver.