New Delhi, Nov 23 : The capitals erstwhile colonies find themselves in colour and form in her works.
Demolished old-world houses and barsatis giving way to builder flats live on and travel with her.
As Delhi-based artist Tanya Goel uses debris from these sites, grinding them into powder to make her own pigments, mixing them with cement, lending the colours a peculiar plasticity, she insists that it is an ode to a beautifully impossible city forever in search of an elusive cure.
Just back from the opening of her latest solo exhibition in Lucerne, Switzerland, the artist, who studied from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before receiving her Master's degree in fine arts from Yale University, says that the works on display were painted during different times of the day and night and under varied lighting.
"Marjorly a study of the colour red, the idea was to investigate relationships between the colours and varied elements.
For example, when at dusk I would see the neons and tacky LEDs lighting up the walls, trees and empty spaces," she said.
Goel said the latest exhibition also demonstrated her own 'unlocking' over the past one-year.
"There has been a peculiar shift in my perception when it comes to art. After much straight up, art historical learning for the last many years, there is now a strong urge to address the unworldly.
In my latest work, I trashed a lot of historical rhetoric.
"Maybe it is do with the fact that I had such a long period of academic training.
Even till the last show, I was being very factual, very scientific. All this while, somewhere in my mind, I was resisting to break away. Well, it's a great feeling to be free," she said.
Believing that colour is both fact and fiction, Goel, who has always been much interested in inter-relationships between tones and colour as spectrum, added, "The most interesting question is how the same composition can change drastically when colour is tweaked a little.
Now, there is a lot more drawing in my work, layered but also intuitive and spontaneous.
"I have been exploring the significance of circles, repetitions and what happens when you look at the work again and again.
So, each work does start with a grid but is interspersed with circles. And yes, there is no escaping the colours which are never repeated."
No matter what, the conversation comes around to Delhi, her favourite subject.
"In this city, I am forever looking for familiarity. My generation has been a witness to the socialist architecture. Suddenly, in the last decade, we have seen a complete shift towards builder blocks. Interestingly, it is not just a nostalgic impulse to hold on to something, but it's also a critique of the failure of Nehru's utopian vision.
"Considering there are so many layers to Delhi, what fascinates me is not just the surface but also exploring the skin underneath and what happens to it all when we break it all down and crush it," she said.
Goel is not really happy that people constantly look for meanings while exploring art.
"When I look at an image, or say the colour red, I see red as red, not as something which signifies blood.
Why such a focus on meanings? Is it because in the back of our minds, we understand the omnipresence of meaninglessness?"
While her book on the theories of colour is a constantly ongoing project, which will in fact be a material archive, the artist, who likes to paint because she is interested in halting time and duration in a single image, finds strong influences in music.
"I look at my paintings as scores and notations. I don't paint to the score of music but I feel I am building a score with different colours. The best part is that with music, people feel a direct connect, they jump in immediately.
"Sadly, art and art history have become so heavy and completely inaccessible. I know it sounds blasphemous, but it's strange that language and words have started preceding the act of looking.
You can't even think of entering a work of art without reading something about it. Why are we so scared of getting surprised," she asked.
All set for the Dhaka Art Summit in February next year where she will be doing a site-specific work and then to Philadelphia, Goel, who spent several years in the US, doesn't really miss New York's art scene.
Despite the fact that her mentor Peter Halley, the central figure in the Neo-Conceptualist movement of the 1980s, worked there, she said, "Well, that city does have that inexhaustible energy about it in terms of the literature, music and art; but the alienation and isolation there can be depressing."