Review Me: Rajul Shah: Healing Colors
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Sunday, June 27, 2021

Rajul Shah: Healing Colors

Rajul, we appreciate the time you spend with us to answer our questions and get more familiar with your art through this interview. We would like to start from your artistic background story and if there was a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your path as a visual artist?
Being an artist is my second career. Prior to this, I spent 20 years in Healthcare Marketing. After retiring in 2012 and moving to Japan, I trained extensively for 7.5 years across Oil, Nihonga (Japanese brush), Acrylic, Drawing, and Photography. Growing up, photography and vocal music were my major hobbies, as were sketching and writing. I have always been creative. I even sang in high school and college! After taking classes in art, I fell in love with painting.

So, in addition to painting, you have a background in photography and music. During your artistic journey, was there ever a moment of doubt to question your artistic path and how did you deal with it?
This may have happened for every artist, even if she or he has been full of ideas and passions. Most of the time, new trends can come out of such moments. I have many moments like this, especially when I am in the middle of a series or a painting. I go through this brief time where I become lost and think “who do you think you are??” and “there is so much artistic talent around, what makes my art special and unique?” This is the signal for me to take a breath and I go exploring for a couple of days. This also gives me the opportunity to think through my paintings and what am I trying to express. After some silence and reflection, I am inspired again to return to the studio.

In fact, you are looking for a way to make your work unique and different from other works, and this challenge keeps you going on dynamically. How do you spend your time for art and what is your daily routine when working in your studio? Has establishing a routine helped you at all?
I don’t know that I have a “routine”. Aside from family (I am a wife, daughter, sister, and mother of 3 children), I work out at least 3 days per week, come home and spend the rest of the day in my studio. One day every week, I devote myself to the “business” side of my Art – planning workshops, recording invoices, updating my website, etc. I spend 10 minutes every day updating my social media accounts, so people know I am always creating. I also do write in a journal 2 to 3 days per week. This allows me to rid myself of the “extras” that don’t need to take primary focus in my thoughts. When I am in the studio I light incense, put on music, inhale and exhale deeply for a few minutes. This helps me to clear my head and awake my right brain to get me ready for my creative immersion.

Great job! Such preparations can result in highly creative works. Now take us through your process of making your artworks. How do you move from an idea to an artwork? Where does an artwork start to get shaped for you?
I love experimenting and putting different materials together, and seeing how it works. I get excited looking at a piece of Washi paper, canvas or wood panel and imagine what I’m going to do with it. I love using gold, silver leaf, metallic pigments. I love to combine different mediums, oil on acrylic, acrylic on Nihonga, pastels on acrylic, etc. I scour YouTube to watch various artists talking about their artworks and demonstrate how they use various techniques. And then I go into my own “cave” and “tinker” like a mad scientist. Recently, I attended a workshop where we used resin – this is my next area of experimentation.

Very efficient! We will talk about your future project a bit later. Now, some artists highlight commonalities in their artworks to show viewers how elements or ideas are serving the same function. In your case, is there a central concept connecting all your works together or each series or artwork is unique?
My first show drew upon my culture and love of color and Indian textile. I moved into landscapes and now my art has evolved in a more conceptual manner; rather than tactically looking at different subject areas, I communicate across abstract and semi-abstract. Today, (other than commissions) all my work centers around “healing”. My culture, life in Japan and my prior career in healthcare give me a lot to draw from. I worked across several therapeutic areas, including Epilepsy, Pain, ADHD, Oncology (Cancer), Pain, Incontinence, and Sexual Dysfunction.

What a productive fusion! How do you prefer to guide your audience to receive the hidden message in your artworks? Would you like to give a particular interpretation of your work to your viewers or you prefer to leave the whole interpretation to your audience?
I like to give a brief description just to put the artwork into context. Most people who love art are not professional collectors, nor are they curatorial experts. They respond to a piece of art because it communicates an idea or emotion with which there is a strong connection. I feel the description helps to address the visual and the intellectual, thereby making a strong emotional connection possible.

Understandable. Providing descriptions can also inspire the audience more effectively to get the right message. As of inspiration, it is evoked from a source, an artist then transmits an idea and is driven to produce some creative outcome as a result. How do you seek and use inspiration for your works?
I read an article about the impact of silence on creativity. When we sit in silence, our brain actually regenerates. When I sit in silence, I have no choice but to think about different ideas and reflect. Much of my inspiration comes from this exercise. Another major source of inspiration, aside from my prior career in healthcare, is a book called “Anatomy of the Spirit” by Dr. Carolyn Myss. It is the first resource to make the connection between emotional well-being and physical health, to link the spiritual with our daily life.
I am also a wanderlust at heart. I love to travel and learn about different cultures. This is what brought me a love of photography when I was growing up. I love to capture the uniqueness of a sunset, the flavors of the mountains, and the peaceful of historical structures and land where spiritual connections are specific to the culture. I realize these seem like two unique approaches – but if you think about it – “Healing” and the way we heal are also specific to a culture and/or tribal identity.

Silence and creativity, nice combination towards healing! What about your subjects? How do you select your artworks subjects? Where they come from?
This is a difficult question for me to answer. I find that this is always evolving (as evidenced by my evolution in the previous question!). I think the best way for me to answer this is: I am a wanderlust. I love to travel and to learn about different cultures. The specific approaches to “Healing” have been very interesting to me of late. So, I start with the two cultures I am most familiar with – India and Japan. I apply these concepts to our physical well-being on a personal level as well as those that affect us externally, such as climate change.

Some artworks by artists may be more memorable to the audience than others. As a curious wanderlust creator of cultural and healing oriented art, is there an artwork or series that you would like to be remembered for? And if yes, what is it?
My favorite pieces are the ones that, when I look at the image, still affect me emotionally in a hopeful, calming and spiritual way. From my Indian Icons collection, it was a small work entitled “Surya’s Dream”. From my Visions of Fuji collection it was a larger work “Memories of Hokusai V”. From my most recent collections: “Anahata I: Healing the Heart” from my Chakras series and “Anahata Healing: The Kintsugi Body” from the Kintsugi Body series.

Very well. In your artistic journey, some artists or maybe some artworks might have been the key influences. What are your art fundamental influences? Who are your favorite contemporary or historical artists and why?
Monet, his use of color, and the impressionists inspired me to learn to paint in oils. As an avid collector of Indian Art, Nitin Ganghrekar and G.A. Dandekar inspire my use of color. I am part of a global network of artists who have learned Painting Excellence from Nancy Reyner of Santa Fe, NM. Her artwork and my time in Japan learning Nihonga from my Japanese Senseis (Shoko and Suiko Ohta) inspire my use of metallics, my self-critique, and the emotional connections I strive for in my artwork.

Quite a few! Then Rajul, if you could meet one of your ideal artists from the past, who would it be and what will you ask about?
I would love to spend time with Van Gogh. He was consistently wrestling with mental illness. An Art Therapist friend of mine once told me that “broken color” is an indication that mental illness could be a concern. Van Gogh suffered from Depression and Anxiety. It is also suspected he suffered from BiPolar Disorder. Painting, I believe, was his way of coping. My question to Van Gogh “Would you allow me to invisibly walk beside you, so I may learn how you see the world and translate your surroundings to your canvas?” If I could live in any artist’s paintings, it would be his, which I am so happy to say that I will have the opportunity to do this at the upcoming Van Gogh Immersive exhibition in NYC!

That's great and you might have already influenced others about by your artworks emphasizing the healing concept. So, those of our readers who follow your work want to know about your future artworks. Any upcoming works or future projects that you would like to share with our readers?
In addition to starting up workshops in my studio in Singapore, I am very excited about how my Kintsugi-inspired works will evolve. Currently, I’m applying this inspiration as two-dimensional depictions of climate change and physical illness and recovery. The Kintsugi Body is my newest bunch of works – and it is the first series where I am bridging healing concepts behind the Chakras and the Kintsugi series, overall.

Great news and we look forward to hear more from you in the future Rajul. That was a very thoughtful talk and we appreciate your time and truthfulness for this interview. Whishing you all the health in the world! ❇

We hope that this interview answered a considerable part of your questions about Rajul's artistic world. If you want to ask your own question, please scan the QR code and proceed.

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