Neoteric Art: Give us some background history on yourself.
Neha Vedpathak: I am a Visual Artist (Painter) from India. I received my five years diploma in Fine Arts at an art school in my home town Pune majoring in portraits and non-representative paintings. My art school years were difficult and very challenging. I was pushed to prove myself and my ideals by the faculty. But it was also here that I learned what kind of artist I wanted to be and what I would and would not comprise as an artist. After graduation I moved to a community workshop in central India called Bharat Bhavan. Here I gained confidence and understood the working of a professional art world. Our art school never taught us how to survive in the REAL world after five years of schooling. At Bharat Bhavan, I met several artist from all over India and the rest of the world, working in different media. It was a very productive and nourishing time, as all I did wa work and if I was not working I was talking and debating about art with other artists. In January of 2007, I got married and found myself in Columbus, IN—very far away from my busy crowded life in India. To cut a long story short from Columbus I moved to Detroit and then to Chicago about a year ago.
NA: You mention space and subtlety are important elements in your work. Please elaborate.
NV: I am naturally drawn towards forms, lines and elements which are under pronounced. Something which is not all revealed at the first glance. I love forms or objects that demands the viewer to dig deeper. Subtlety keeps the mystery alive and ever changing. Personally I find it very interesting, and hence I try to imitate that in my paintings. I believe the relationship between “The Viewer” and “The Painting” should be mutual. My painting does its part by being available to the viewer and the viewer in turn should take time to get to know and understand the painting. My works may not be for viewers who are impatient or demand instant gratification.
Space and forms are inter-related. And in minimal paintings like my own, I think space is not only a supportive element (as negative space) but is a very important element in itself. Sometimes space becomes a form itself. Minimal forms come to life and become prominent in large and often overpowering space. In my work I strive to create tension between the large masses of color, the space, tiny details and the drawing.
NA: Describe your actual process in making a painting.
NV: My actual process of painting is quite simple. I do a lot of drawing in preparation for my canvases. Before I start a new line of work, I draw or do hundreds of paper works. It gives me a clear understanding of what I am thinking and how my hand responds to it. At that point I know the preparation is done and I can surrender to spontaneity. Then I begin painting. The lengthy part of the painting is preparing the canvas. After 6-7 layers of gesso, I start the actual painting, which is the fun part. I shut my eyes and sit before the prepared canvas, waiting for the painting to dawn upon me. Seven out of ten times it does. I can see the painting vividly with my eyes shut. I try to see the details and the composition and then I just have to follow the “vision”. Sometimes I may improve the composition depending on the moment. Without romanticizing the idea too much, I like when the painting guides me. To me, I am just a medium and the painting itself is meant to happen.
As for the medium: I work in mixed media—using graphite, graphite dust, metal dust, Japanese paper, fresh flowers, berries, leaves, and pastels.
NA: You recently had an artist residency in Greece. How was that experience?
NV: Yes I attended a three week residency at SKOPELOS ART FOUNDATION, on a small island of Skopelos in Greece. It has the very beautiful and well equipped studio space, equipped for Painting, Printmaking & Ceramics. I wanted to get away and work on something new, something unplanned. I must admit that the first few days were difficult and it really challenged me. During my residency I used several new and different techniques and materials…specifically I worked on vellum paper for the first time and absolutely fell in the love it. The place and the environment was extremely conducive to making my work.
During my time there, 6 senior artists were doing the residency as well. We had countless discussions about art, artists, the art scene, different cultures, etc. It was interesting to see how different artists with different backgrounds think about a common topic. I would recommend an artist residency for anyone who wants to push and challenge themselves.
NA: What are your long term goals for your art career?
NV: My long term career goals involve two things: 1. – To continue to work as a full-time artist. I know it’s a big privilege to do so but there’s nothing better for me than doing what I do right now (that is making art). At the risk of sounding immodest I would like to say I want to exhibit in museums like MOMA and the TATE. So that means I will strive to work harder and try to work as honestly as possible. I think of the challenges of being an artist, as one grows older, is that one knows so much of what’s happening around. I would like to keep unlearning and omitting excess information. And 2. – I want to start an Art School where all students receive scholarships. It would be nothing like a regular Art School pattern we have today. Students will be encouraged and offered choices.
NA: Who is your favorite artist at the moment and why?
NV: I know you said favorite artist at this moment but I have to mention Vincent Van Gogh before I mention anyone else. Vincent is my all time inspiration.
I have two favorite artists at this moment: Eva Hesse and Tara Donovan.
I discovered both these artists after I moved to United States. The first time I saw Eva Hesse’s work something within me changed. It gave me confidence. I simply love her work, especially her minimal resin sculptures which, I think, were definitely ahead of their time. My other favorite artist, Tara Donovan, has this unique strength of making everyday mundane objects like toothpicks and styrofoam cups look larger than life. She makes the object grow and brings them to this heighten state of being. She thinks out of the box and larger than the box itself.