Saturday, September 29, 2007

Weekend paint splatter

Sunil, 'Untitled', Latex based house paint on canvas, 36" X 48"

Looks like I am falling into a habit of making meaningless paintings over weekends...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


26 Sept 2007, Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar
(More relevant news here; The killing has just begun - going by today's standards you will have plenty of time to catch up with the news - it takes time to kill off monks...)

5 June 1989, Tiananmen Square, China
Pictures ripped online from MSNBC

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Painting Post: Belphegor

Sunil, 'Belphegor', Oil on masonite, 41" X 44"

Monday, September 24, 2007

At the arts festival yesterday

The arts festival that I had mentioned previously here was great fun and a big success. Even if I did not win any prizes, we had a good time meeting up with fellow local artists, musicians and patrons... Local arts festivals usually tend to harbor a lot of traditional paintings like landscapes and the like. The festival at Highland Park actually surprised me - abstract art everywhere and some of them very evocative. I took pictures of pieces that I liked... I have included links to the artists website where appropriate.

Mike Fleber, 'Gear Designs', Oil on wood

Dolores Ann Ziegler, 'Hidden Agenda', Oil on masonite

Ryan Rosenberg, 'Heal', Oil on masonite

Video art loss

Even if the news in this was a little dated, it was worth recording here...

For most of us video art remains what it originally was meant to be: video recordings. Until one saw Jeremy Blake's videos. They were abstract paintings on videos.

In my view, this gifted artist who recently took his own life two months back today (a week after his girlfriend Theresa Duncan took hers) was trying to get the whole genre of video art to a higher plane (what abstraction did to conventional painting about 130 years ago) and he was slowly succeeding at the game.
Who know's what this pair could have done...

The NYT article announcing their end is here.
Note: Kafka was quoted on Theresa Duncan's blog a couple of weeks before she took her life... We are as forlorn as children lost in the wood. When you stand in front of me and look at me, what do you know of the grief that is in me and what do I know of yours? And if I were to cast myself down before you and tell you, what more would you know about me than you know about Hell when someone tells you it is hot and dreadful?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Weekend paint splatter

Sunil and
Hari, 'Not yet titled', Latex based house paint on canvas, 36" X 48"

Languid Saturday afternoon - my son and me decided to splash some paint on canvas and this is what we got...

Friday, September 21, 2007


Sunil, 'Ra', Digital Photograph

Stained glass

Stained glass lightboxes photograph great, but we will need to go and see if the art lives up to the image. Coming mid October to Claire Oliver is Judith Schaechter with her stained glass lightboxes...

The pictures are stunning, surreal and other-worldly... for the actual thing - I plan to go to the show...

More on making a stained glass lightbox here...

Note: Judith Schaechter in "Burning Inside" between Oct 11 to Nov 10 at Claire Oliver, 513 W 26 St, NY.

Please unbore us...

Walking around Chelsea the other day I was struck by the regularity of a painting type/technique that seems to have the following characteristics:

- Extreme and very deliberative finish to the point of the whole surface being faultless and robotic
- An unnatural varnish like sheen over the surface that seemed to belie almost a machine-imparted inkjet quality to the finish (think how a laminated color printout would look)
- Not one brushstroke out of place, not even a errant stray mark of an offending brush-hair
- A manga or anime comic book ‘feel’ to the effect where all paint boundaries are filled in perfectly with complementary colors
- A prevalence to using enamel or latex on aluminum or wood panel

I could go on and on, but some of these pieces are being exhibited right now at some of our high end galleries seem a bit pointless in all of their glorified abstraction. In fact the technique used to develop these surfaces seem so laborious (seemingly) that once (I am guessing) the artist perfects the same, the process invested is so great that they would rather not look at any change of style or substance. This results in all of the paintings at these galleries looking like carbon copies with minor variations on the major theme. I have a few pictures of these paintings from my visits and I hope they shed some more light. Of course, the ink-jet-printer-faux-finish can only be appreciated (or denigrated) on a closer physical visual inspection of these pieces (some of which sell are purported in the tens of thousands of dollars – good for the artists though). I must add that they are a treat to the eyes visually...

Yes, if all was right, I would have bought one of these pieces, and hung it up not as a painting, but as effective decoration behind the faux leather couch in our basement...

Emilio Perez at Galerie Lelong, Acrylic and latex on panel

Ingrid Calame at James Cohan Gallery, Enamel Paint on Aluminum

Aaron Noble at Pavel Zoubok gallery, Acrylic on canvas

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Painting Post: Battery

Sunil, 'Battery', Oil and gesso on masonite, 40" X 44", 2007

This is a second picture in a continuing series that I started early this year. The first in this series is here.
Statistic: In the United States, a woman is battered every 15 seconds. Source here.

Basic Instincts

I always wonder what it is about New York City that makes its denizens do such wonderful and zany things that remind us to think outside the box and implications thereof...

Case I: First is the case of an individual who decided to take the locavore movement to its logical end/extreme. Instead of adhering to principles and eating only what is grown within a few miles of the house and hence in the process reduce 'food miles' and its consequent effects on the larger environment, this individual decided to go the full Monty and planned on subsistence farming in his own backyard in Brooklyn. Yes, all 800 square feet of arable land that he had behind his home. The results are masterfully (and with hints of satire) described in this New York article here. They include smelly chicken and rabbits running around in the yard, a freak tornado (yes, a tornado grew in Brooklyn - see here) that lays waste the whole setup and his marriage in the soil...

Some amusing excerpts below..

"Because it was March already, it was too late to plant wheat, which has a winter growing season. Okay, no bread. As for dairy: It is illegal to have a cow or a goat in New York City, but I figured I could at least hide a goat in the garage. Was it worth the risk? Cheese would be nice, but have you ever put goat’s milk in your coffee? Black seemed the way to go. Finally, cooking oil: I didn’t have enough garden space for all the plants I’d need to produce vegetable oil, so I’d have to make do with animal fat of some kind. A pig, maybe? Duck fat was another good possibility…"

On his experiments with raising rabbits...

"Rabbits, by comparison, seemed like a breeze. Ideally, you want to eat very young rabbits, when their meat is tender, and as we all know, the species multiplies like mad. According to the pro-bunny-eating propagandists, a single doe can produce 1,000 times her body weight in edible offspring per year. Also, rabbits do okay in small cages, which meant I could stack them up efficiently in the barn. After a bit of research, I learned that the perfect breed is the Flemish Giant...
Immediately, complications set in. The rabbits kept themselves cool in the summer heat by kicking over their water dishes. The wet conditions invited flies to lay eggs, which turned into maggots, which attached themselves to the does. I lost a doe and the kids’ buck to hideous infestations that I care not to describe further or ever think of again."

Case II: This is the story of a 'no-impact man' who describes himself on his blog as a guilty liberal who after snapping, turns off the power to his apartment, decides to eat organic, does not use any traces of plastic and composts the stuff that comes out of his family’s backside (all this with taking his baby daughter and his worldly wife along for the ride...).

No TV, no fridge, no air conditioning, no shampoo, no toilet paper (though we do not want to know the specifics here), lots of candles, reusing trash, buying second hand goods, and of course reducing the amount of water used by the average American family from 100 gallons down to their goal of 7 gallons per day...

All power needs were served by a solar panel (which was barely enough) and news came in via a solar powered crank up radio (the kind that you would gift a tree hugger without ever thinking that they would actually go ahead and use it). Of course the toughest part of the experiment seems to be hand washing clothes (did not tell you - no washing machines either).

Now even if most people would take both of these experiments in a ‘these environo guys are plain crazy’ vein, it does pay a bit to reflect on the message... Only then do we slowly understand how large a portion of our daily lives are lived by being constantly plugged into the vast grid of externalities that we really have no control of…

It also underscores the fragility of our everyday situations and how much we take this vast system for granted. It also makes us stop and think about the larger connections to nature and our footprint on the world at large.

These individuals make that possible for us - however zany their trials might be...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Healthy thoughts

Nearly 50 million people now lack health coverage. That is about 20 percent of the United States population. The Kaiser Family Foundation released figures that healthcare premium costs have risen 78% in the last six years.

A leading presidential contender recently unveiled a plan that called for universal healthcare: Whereby every single American will have to be insured (or will have a decent chance to get insured) like the way you need auto insurance to drive your vehicle. I liked the plan (unveiled yesterday) for it simplicity:

  • Everybody will need to get healthcare insurance. They will need to go and buy insurance if their employer does not provide for the same. If they like their current plan, then stick to it – no-one is forcing you to change status quo if the current state serves well..

  • The premium and the cost of buying the insurance will be sold by the healthcare insurance companies based on a tiered model that is equated to an individual’s wealth and earnings.

  • The companies will not have the power to turn away people based on their pre-existing conditions – (which are a way by which most companies hedge their bets and make money off people’s well being). But then, you might ask - How are these companies going to make money? Well, they are going to charge cheaper rates for those in the lower economic strata and more expensive and higher rates for people who are wealthier (making more off the wealthy).

  • Additional shortfall in funding this plan will be provided by the government from money derived from rolling back the currently 'in vogue' tax cuts (the tax cut law that says 'if you are very rich, you get a huge tax cut, but pay taxes if you are poor' - in fact, the tax cut is higher, the richer you are - a very perverse logic that I still do not get).

Of course, criticism ranged from ‘socialized medicine is back’ to ‘un-necessary burden on the young to take care of the older more disease-prone strata’.

My response to some of the initial criticism crawling out of the woodwork will be that maybe in healthcare it might be a good time for a more equitable distribution of resources for the welfare of the common human being. Maybe we should stop differentiating between the rich and the have-nots… and provide for healthcare to all. It is a paradigm shift, but a much needed one.
To the second criticism, my question would be thus: Have the majority forgotten that it is a duty of the younger ones to look after their older? – Well, the older ones did it when they were younger – so why not repay it and let the ageing live out their lives in dignity.

I am sure that more and more criticism of this kind would drive noble sounding plans like the above into the swamp… But I had to write my bit…

Gilbert and George, 'Hope Rising', 28 hand colored gelatin silver prints in artists frames, 95" X 139", 1986

Monday, September 17, 2007

Work in progress

An art fair where I would be showing

If ever you happen to be in New Jersey next weekend and you are looking for something to do in the arts, then do not forget to drop by and have a look-see at the Third Annual 'Arts in the Park, Art Festival’ on Sunday, September 23rd, 2007 in Highland Park, NJ.

This is a juried exhibit with individual mentions for photography, painting, fine arts, computer generated imagery and sculpture. It is nice to see that arts festivals are beginning to generate a buzz for a somewhat neglected art form like ‘computer generated arts and graphics’ and including this category (standing on its own with others like photography and sculpture). The organizers are also planning a line up of music that seems to include local bands featuring rock, bluegrass and jazz (I will not vouch for the quality of this aspect of the show, but I did not participate last year and for all you know, it might be better than the art itself…

I do not have too much hope to get any sort of a ‘mention’ from the jurors given the fact that they have called in artists with emails that sound very professional... (Sometimes when you have an email address that spells, you know that you are up against some serious stuff – but appearances sometimes do not tell the whole picture).

However, it does not hurt to hope and that is what I will be doing fervently this weekend. We do not plan on selling anything as we are not yet ready to start ‘selling’ to strangers and frankly part with some of the paintings… not so sure when I will honestly be ready.

The coming weeks are also going to be a bit busy as we are getting ready to have my first solo show in New Jersey (at a gallery in Cranbury, NJ). I will post details on this sometime next week. The show will run the whole of next month and we will be required to do some sitting-in at the gallery (that is what the art director told us)...

Power of photos - a road more travelled...

Christopher Morris, 'Portrait of Power', Black and white photo, 2004

President George W. Bush (center) with Vice President Dick Cheney (left) and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (right), walking out to address reporters at Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch. August 23, 2004.
Note: It is funny how the road behind extends in the Vice President's direction. All roads lead to Cheney - they say. The power of photographs compels...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007


Vincent van Gogh, 'The Potato Eaters', 1885, Oil on canvas

'I have tried to emphasize that those people, eating their potatoes in the lamp-light have dug the earth with those very hands they put in the dish, and so it speaks of manual labor, and how they have honestly earned their food' - Vincent van Gogh, 1885
forcing - a ditty
tie it down,
on letting free
Flees back, status quo

straighten the bend,
on less restrain
Bends back, original strain

stick it up,
on drying glue
Easily free, unrestrained

‘tis a funny thing,
this love
You can’t hurry it.

Gallery visit - Natalie Frank at Mitchell Innes and Nash

I liked the visual plentitude in Natalie Frank's first solo exhibition at Mitchell Innes and Nash. She lets you be a voyeur into a kind of people whose personalities and identities are not defined completely yet seem familiar to us in her exploration of power, domination, subjugation and class differences inherent in our society. The paintings are large scale, a treat to the eyes and striking in their detail to attention. Some of the paintings had me thinking of the kind of drama set on canvas of the heroes and whores of the Weimar times... 'The Stammerer' (see below) is one of my favorites - features so much psychological tension - the man in the background is actually choking another bare chested woman...

I have some pictures posted here - just my perspective - for a better one, go see the paintings at the gallery.

Note: Natalie Frank was born in Austin, Texas in 1980. She earned an M.F.A. in visual arts at Columbia University's School of the Arts in 2006 and holds a B.A. in studio art from Yale University.

Natalie Frank, 'Portrait', Oil on canvas, 18" X 16", 2007

Natalie Frank, 'Robert', Oil on canvas, 20" X 18", 2007

Detail of above

Natalie Frank, 'Portrait', Oil on canvas, 56" X 34", 2007

Detail of above

Natalie Frank, 'The Stammerer', Oil on canvas, 56" X 80", 2007

Natalie Frank, 'Ryan and Jeremy', Oil on canvas, 56" X 72", 2007

Thursday, September 13, 2007

On paintings leaving their roost

It is a happy and a sad feeling when one of your paintings leaves home to live forever with its new caregivers. This is especially so when the painting moves out of your country and starts life in another country. It is almost like looking at one of your loved ones far away from home yet resting well in the knowledge that it would be very well looked after. This is the feeling I had when I watched one of my paintings hung at my sister’s home in Germany. They said they are enjoying having the new company in their living room.

Very soon, some more of my favorite ones are starting to find homes and I am sure we need to get used to this.

Some more product watching and musings thereof...

In case you are concerned that overloaded cheese on our pizzas is not doing a good job of adding extra holes on our belts and extra sizes to the clothes we wear, a prominent pizza company has just the answer for us: Adding Oreo’s on top of the cheese to make it even ‘fatter’.

In related news a top federal judge struck down a recent NY law which had made it mandatory that restaurants should list the calorie content of foods served up.

The restaurant industry seemed buoyed when a federal judge this week struck down a city health regulation that would have required nearly 2,400 New York City restaurants to post calorie information on their menus. The restaurant association had argued to strike down the rule as unconstitutional, saying it violated the First Amendment and punished eateries that already tell the public nutritional facts about food on their menus by requiring the disclosure to be made in a uniform manner. The regulation would have required chain restaurants that already voluntarily provide calorie information about its dishes on things like Web sites, tray liners or posters to post that information on their menus or menu boards.
It is not just the Oreos and the cheese working to fatten us up, please count in lawyers, lobbyists and a host of other links in this vast and complicated food chain.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Question time.

Event: The New York Historical Society (which touts itself as New York City's oldest museum and research library) began an exhibition of artifacts and photographs from the world trade center site following the destruction of the buildings six years back on September 11th.

Question: Is it a reflection on the relative newness of the society and the culture of America that artifacts only about six years old are shown at a place that carries the name ‘Historical’ as part of its facade or is it because we are living in the vat of information and factual gluttony that regurgitates events barely six years old into offerings of history?

"Here is New York: Remembering 9/11" will, in addition to photographs, employ artifacts (for example, a piece of landing gear – from United Airlines Flight 175 or American Airlines Flight 11), artwork, videotapes, and audiotapes.

Augustus Vincent Tack (1870-1949), 'Epiphany', Oil on canvas laid on panel, 44" X 43", 1922

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

This time that day... six years ago.

I worked about a block from the world trade center six years back on this day. It was a quiet day and the corporate rumor was that they were going to announce a restructuring of our unit hence we were all excited... The first plane hit and I remember looking out the window of the 12th floor of our building and noticed that something did not seem right as the whoosh preceding the seconds before the explosion was unexplained. By the time the second plane crashed, someone on our floor said that it might be a good idea to evacuate. I remember running down a dark stairwell and onto the streets out below to be greeted by ticker tape like graffiti that looked like a cross between dust and grey snowflakes - later I would realize that this was the insulation coming off the outer shells of the towers. The fires were pretty horrible up on the towers and someone told me to look out for people jumping out of the windows as if it were some kind of a circus spectacle. I did not have the stomach to look up after that. I also remember leading a pregnant co-worker to safety after we decided to trudge out of Manhattan just after the first tower fell - she later stayed the night in my in-laws home over in Brooklyn. For some reason the one thing that I can’t seem to forget was the snowflake like dust that seemed to settle all over lower Manhattan in the moments after the towers fell. It turned that 10’ o clock morning into a winter evening in such a short time…

That remains my strongest memory of that day...

I love to watch this video that showcased the feeling of that time six years back...

Sunil, 'Raising at Trinity', digital photograph, Sept 11th 2007

Monday, September 10, 2007

Cach Frace

Sunil, 'Meme', Pencil and marker on card stock, 6.5" X 3.5"

We see a preponderance of catchy two-word phrases that seem to inundate our daily lives. Most of them have been craftily coined up by people as straws on which they sometimes float their entire careers on. How many times have you listened to the news and wondered when did so many of these two word phrases acquire a life of their own… This morning, listening to the news I heard three different two-word phrases bandied about multiple times in the space of a few minutes. This must be the new norm – understanding phrases and nodding wholeheartedly to things like ‘mission accomplished’ and ‘irrational exuberance’… This also means that in addition to our closeted culture of ‘i-pod’ HENSE ‘i-shut-out’, we would have to become used to staccato two or three word catch phrases supposedly pregnant with meaning.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Spam for artists

Alex Dragulescu spam art (more here)

The email spam remains alive and well. Watch out for the following spam directed towards artists...Trust them to get even more creative as we go on...

I got this mail this morning...

Hope this message finds you well ,I came across your web page while directed toarching for good artworks and I will like to buy some of these creative artworks directly from you which i think will be perfect for my walls

Buy Me Bring Me Take Me 2007-02-20 13:11:48 Oil on canvas 3 feet X 4 feet

The Veil: Some Parts Mea Culpa 2007-02-20 13:11:59 Oil on canvas 3 feet X 4 feet

I will be happy to have these selected artworks in our new home. What are their prices exclusive of shipping cost? We are travelling from our Alabama home to our new apartment in London, I will appreciate an earlier reply.

Best Regards


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A wail tale...

Question of the day:

Who is credited with the following lines?

"I've got God's shoulder to cry on. And I cry a lot. I do a lot of crying in this job. .... ... I'll shed some tomorrow."

I painted the person who said these lines some time back here...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Nanotechnology and art - strange bedfellows

San Marco Abbey (Florence), wall paintings by Beato Angelico. Conservation carried out withthe Ferroni-Dini method (ammonium carbonate plus barium hydroxide)

I did my masters about eight years ago in the burgeoning field of nanotechnology (for more on this field, see here). Though I do not use the research then done at my present job (which one of us honestly do?), it is always interesting to see something that I did long back and was passionate - nanoscience - coupled with the passions that occupy me now - painting.

A motley combination of nano-science and art seems to have joined together in the cause of something noble. An article in the latest issue of News Scientist talks about the use of nanomagnetic sponges used to clean up ancient frescoes, paintings and sculptures.

Piero Baglioni and colleagues of the University of Florence mixed nanoparticles, made of cobalt and iron oxide, into a polymer gel to create a magnetic sponge with cavities just 50 nanometres in size. They filled these cavities with microemulsions – mixtures including surfactant molecules that work in a similar manner to those in soap – that help to dissolve dirt on contact.

The researchers have previously used microemulsions on their own to clean frescos and paintings that were covered in dirt, grime and paraloid – an acrylic copolymer routinely used by conservators in the 1960s in an attempt to protect paintings. The new nanomagnetic gel is just as effective, but is much easier to remove.

For more details the group has published a paper that is accessible here (pdf alert as usual)...
Colloidal Science and Nanotechnology for Cultural Heritage Conservation - 2006 Baglioni, P., Carretti, E., Chelazzi, D., Dei, L., Giorgi, R., Macherelli, A., Salvadori, B.

Homescape as an escape

Striving to accurately photograph some of the paintings I work on is slowly leading me to a better understanding of the vagaries and vicissitudes associated with photography. Its nature of producing immediate results has tendencies to gratify as well as insult, the latter sentiment visiting me more often than not. In an age of instant gratification, photography rivals most other mediums to compete as an artist’s bedfellow.

The other day, I indulged myself in a thought experiment on reading an article about the venerable Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her never-ending house arrest. The experiment went along the following lines - What would you do if you were locked away in the confines of your home - would you still manage to find art?

So, this is what I did - I decided that in between the hustle and bustle of Labor day weekend (it was pretty hectic - with my sisters family coming to visit us from Germany for a couple of weeks and the resulting grilling and family visits), I would imagine that I had only the landscape of the inside of our home to capture via photography… I managed to click about 50 or so pictures - a lot of them without too much regard to flash and exposure setting and results are in the album link posted below.

Album link: