Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 and notes to self for 2015

It's that time of the year again; the yearly ritual of brushing off one's lassitude to look at life in the face. 2014 has been a good year. Some of the things I wanted to accomplish in 2014 were - create a body of work, exhibit in group shows, learn pottery, create a website and apply to juried shows. Creating a body of work was the most important goal, and so I paid it the most attention. I have spent many long hours (not long enough) in the studio. Despite the periodic frustration, doubt and procrastination, I did pretty well. I created a body of work this year and am still working on it. I exhibited thrice this year. (not bad) The pottery goal was fun. As for juried shows, I haven't been lucky this year. I didn't get around to creating a website for myself either. Perhaps 2015 will be the year for both goals.

I continued volunteering at Columbia Art Center (CAC) this year; my weekly appointment with the world outside the studio. As a volunteer, I've done some interesting projects/ tasks at CAC, but usually I help them with their inventory. In June this year, CAC asked me to give a talk to teachers and facilitators of a kids' art camp. I talked to the group about my work, after which we discussed subjects such as self-expression, success and failure, spontaneity, the creative process, the inner censor and taking risks. We ended with a painting project. It was a fun event. More than anything the experience told me that I could put myself out there. Scary, but fun.

2014 also marked the fourth anniversary of A Work in Progress. Four years! Sure I haven't given the blog as much attention as I should have, but still. With the new year I promise, dear blog, to shower you with more love. 

Now that there's no stopping 2015, I have a list of things I want to do this year. Paint on larger canvases, return to printmaking, go deeper into silence and stillness, exhibit in India, participate in exhibitions and apply to juried shows, create a website, and blog regularly. Work has taught me some important lessons this year and I want to keep these in mind in 2015: 

  • When the resistance to begin work arises, dip into work regardless. The edges of any fear will begin to fade and the next step becomes inevitable. 
  • Staying in the studio even when things are not going your way is vital. 
  • Mundane activities like clearing your table can coax the answer hiding inside you to reveal itself. 
  • Silliness and lighthearted defiance are great allies when the all serious ego tries to overpower you. 
  • Everything takes its time.
  • Everything flows into each other. Life is seamless.

I leave you now with some my favourite photos of 2014. Wish you a very happy 2015. May you have a year of creativity, joy, laughter, wisdom and peace. See you in 2015!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

potter files: the results are in (part 2)

As promised, here is the second installment of the ceramic bowls and pots. In the first part of this post, I spoke of surprises. This time I welcome you to enjoy the snowy landscape inside the first bowl and the sun burst which overflows from the second bowl. Then there is the gentle blue snow in the third bowl and the undulating hills inside bowl four. Lastly, there are the two pots, tiny but lovely.

I mentioned in part 1 that I was taking the class at Columbia Art Center again. It's been a very productive session. We are in week eight now and I have made teapots, bowls, plates, mugs and jars. Photos of those soon. Until then, enjoy!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

the lightness of invisible afternoons

the lightness of invisible afternoons,
watersoluble graphite on paper, 18x24" 2014, priya vadhyar

The warm breeze, the lull 
And the certainty of buried treasure 
What I remember most 
Is the lightness of those invisible afternoons.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

that the stars are adamant

that the stars are adamant,
acrylic on paper, 18x24", 2014 ©priya vadhyar

I have come to realise over time that when I paint, I am, essentially, travelling. I go to far off lands and see things. I see structures and mountains; sometimes a horizon and a bird in flight or rain on forgotten hills. Sometimes I can feel the breeze and am filled with wonder. It's that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you are in a new and mysterious place. As with all travel, emotions run high. Sometimes a painting is heavy with sentiment and sometimes it is light, filled with delight. I feel as though I am searching for something as I add layers of paint. Often what lies before me seems to be universal; the human condition trying to find its place in the universe. In all this travelling, I am reminded of my humanness, my insignificance and the vastness inside me.

*Notes: The title 'that the stars are adamant' comes from the poem 'A Life' by Edith Sรถdergran.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

potter files: the results are in (part 1)

Yes, the results are in. Or rather, they're out ... of the kiln. The pots and bowls have turned out really beautiful. Each one is full of surprises - the colour gradation and freckles on the mustard coloured vase; the lovely gash on the red one; the blue ring on the base of the bowl with the leaf; the marks on the lidded jar; the way the the lid and the base of the same jar coloured differently. But then happy accidents are very much a part of ceramics. Many variables come together to give you a final output. The glaze moves when it is fired, so it will interact with the contour of the bisqueware and the application of wax and additional layers of glaze. The placement of your piece in the kiln, the size of the piece sitting next to yours, the exposure to heat etc. also influence how your vase will turn out. You have to be prepared to be surprised. (ha ha..)

By the end of class I made quite a few things, so I am dividing this post into two parts. The second post with the rest of the ceramic pieces will be up soon.

Did I mention that I'm taking this class with Donna Lansman at Columbia Art Center again? This time we are starting with tea pots. This means we'll turn cylinders into the body of the pot, and we will learn to make the lid, the handle and of course the spout. Exciting stuff.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

in a landscape. unexpected.

This is an early piece from the new series I started last year. It started out as a scribble; a loosening of the wrist. Soon the sketch started responding and taking shape as I kept working. At one point I worked on it upside down. I did that for a while. When I turned it to the current orientation, I saw that the sketch had come to life.

The title of this piece is 'In a Landscape. Unexpected.', and the medium is water-soluble graphite on paper.

in a landscape. unexpected.
water-soluble graphite on paper, 18x24", 2013, ©priya vadhyar

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

once upon a breeze, a magpie

once upon a breeze, a magpie
acrylic on paper, 18x24", 2013 ©priya vadhyar

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

potter files - learning the language of clay

Columbia Art Center (CAC), where I have been volunteering for the last ten months, offers a number of ceramics classes. These classes range from beginner to advanced levels, and are taught by experienced ceramic artists. The ceramics studio is huge. It has a line of potter's wheels, a glazing room, kilns - the works (see images below). Since ceramics has always held my attention, I decided to take the introduction to wheel throwing class.

My teacher for this class is Donna Lansman. I have enjoyed learning a new skill with Donna, who is a fun person to work with and a teacher with immense patience. For the last six weeks she has been teaching my class the language of clay. We have learned to wedge, center, pull and collar, and make a host of things. I have made bowls and cylinders, vases, sealed jars and other objects.

Working on the wheel is fun. To watch the block of clay emerge as a form is mesmerising. Nothing short of magical. But learning to work with clay has also meant that many pieces have fallen apart along the way. Sometimes I went in too deep, sometimes uneven pressure while pulling up the clay created thin spots. At times the clay was not centered, which made the piece lopsided and unstable. I am sure that with time, patience and lots of practice the pots and bowls I make will be centered, strong and even.

For now here are a few bowls and pots I made. Soon these pieces will be glazed. Then they will be off to the kiln for firing. Stay tuned for the final output.

potter's wheels and a ceramic artist at work

glaze swatches

Friday, August 15, 2014

the sound of somewhere

Continuing with the new series, here is a piece called 'the sound of somewhere'. The medium is acrylics and water-soluble graphite on paper and the size is 18x24 inches.

the sound of somewhere, mixed media on paper, 18x24",  ©2013 priya vadhyar

Sunday, August 10, 2014

new work - ((mountain-crow-echo))

Starting this month I will share the work I've been doing for the past one year. This one is called ((mountain-crow-echo)). The size is 18x24" and the medium is ink on paper.

((mountain-crow-echo)), ink on paper, 18x24", ©2013 priya vadhyar

Friday, April 11, 2014

exhibition: visions of hope

Hello all! I am participating in an exhibition at Columbia Art Center. 'Visions of Hope', as the show is called, celebrates the 100th birthday of James Rouse, the urban planner and philanthropist who was responsible for the creation of Columbia as a planned community. (You can read more about James Rouse here. Incidentally, he is also the maternal grandfather of actor Edward Norton.) 

My entry in the group show is an acrylic painting on canvas. The title of the piece is 'Of the Same Bliss'. 
The reception for the show is today between 6 and 8pm.

'of the same bliss', acrylic on canvas, 30x40", ©2014 priya vadhyar

Thursday, February 6, 2014

18th century Chinese artist on life-force and painting

I've been reading The Grove Book of Art Writing edited by Martin Gayford and Karen Wright. It is an anthology of writings by artists, critics, writers and philosophers on topics related to the creative process, viewing art, nature and inspiration and the artist. In it I came across a gem, a text by an 18th century artist from China, Shen Tsung-ch'ien. In this short piece he talks about life-force and the act of painting. There is a lot to take from it. So here goes..

All matter is formed of accumulated force. Thus even the undulations of the hilltops and every rock and tree are possessed by a life-force inherent in them. They are multifarious, yet orderly, perhaps they exist in small numbers, but they are never dried and dead. Each has its own shape, and together they have a related unity. All things differ in shape and manner, yet all are governed by this life-force and possess the beauty of life. This is what we call shih, force of movement. When people, speaking of the six techniques [the venerable principles of Chinese art, laid down in the fifth century AD], place first the 'lifelike tone and atmosphere', they mean exactly this. When we speak of the force of the brush (pi-shih), we mean that the life-movement of the brush brings out the body posture of the different objects. Only so can the work be called a painting. When one prepares to put ink on paper, one should feel in one's wrist a power like the universe creating life. It flows out from one generously and freely, without obstruction and without deliberation. One puts a dot here and a 
dash there and the objects take form; anything is possible for one to pick up and carry along. This is the creative moment when hand and mind and brush and ink co-operate. As Wen Cheng-ming says, seize it, capture it at once before it vanishes, for speed is essential to catch that force of movement. ... The forms of hills and forests come from the life-force (sheng-ch'i) of the universe, and the ink marks and tracings of the brush come the spiritual force of the artist's mind and hand. So where the life-force is, the force of movement is also. The life-force makes the force of movement, and the force of movement carries the life-movement. The force of movement (shih) can be seen, but the life-force (chi'i) cannot. Therefore it is necessary to have the force of movement to bring out the life of things. When life-force circulates, the force of movement goes in harmony with it. So this life-force and force of movement come from the same source. Let it pour out and it will flow naturally and in graceful movements. There is no need to work carefully and yet it all fits in beautifully. Is it life-force? Or is it force of movement? Just pour it out. The insight of a moment may be thus committed to eternity, and the artist need not be ashamed of his work. Such pleasures of creation cannot be felt by an artist who slowly builds up his structures.

The moment of inspiration comes by itself, and brushes away all doubts and hesitancies. Like an arrow shooting out from the bowstring, it cannot be stopped; it is unfathomable, like rumbling thunder coming from the earth. One has no idea where it comes from, when it starts, nor wither it goes. It comes just at the exact moment, not a second sooner or later. When this inspiration comes at the moment of painting, a true masterpiece is born. It cannot be repeated by doubled effort, it simply eludes it. For the effort to recapture that moment is born of man (artificial), not of heaven (inspired). Only those possessed of the natural expansive spirit have more of such moments; they can shut out the mental effort and let themselves go soaring in freedom to wherever the spirit may carry them. ...
- Shen Tsung-ch'ien, fl. 1781