The Artist, her art and her muse

Her artwork will draw you like a wandering moth to a glowing flame in a dark room; it’s got a certain sense of intensity and depth; it’s dramatic yet calm and playful yet sombre – The Lifestyle Portal is proud to showcase the talents of a self-taught artist from Chicago in our latest interview.

We caught up with 33-year-old Subha Chaudhuri who works out of her home based studio from Evanston, Illinois – a suburb located about 20 miles north of Chicago. As a self-taught artist she’s been dabbling in artwork since the last four years and her work has been featured in a number of exhibitions in the US in 2014. Catch a glimpse of all her breathtaking artwork on her website – ‘art by subha chaudhuri‘.

Since 2010, she’s been working as a management consultant for Aon Corporation, in their Mergers & Acquisitions practice. Subha came to the US in 2008 to earn an MBA degree from the University of Chicago. Before relocating to the US, she worked at the Bank of America in Mumbai, in their Investment Banking group.

It is no surprise that no matter where one goes, their first love never fades from life and for Subha it was her love for paints, colours and art.

When did it all begin? 

Ever since her toddler days, Subha has always been engaged in creative pursuits starting with music, dance and art lessons.

“I returned to painting in 2010 when I started experimenting with acrylics and oils on canvas. I connect with Picasso’s words “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life”. There is a creative force within us that drives our lives, and painting is the medium I chose to give that voice within me a form and expression,” adds Subha.

Formal training in art 

Subha recalls, “As a child, I have had a few years of art lessons that my mother tirelessly took me to every week in Kolkata. I ended up pursuing Classical Manipuri dancing instead throughout my youth and did not get formal training in art. Almost a decade later, I began to paint again, as a hobby and discovered a motivation to pursue it seriously.”

When Subha realised that she wanted to learn more about the creative processes – right from colour theory, styles, drawing and more, she enrolled in the Virtual Art Academy Apprentice Program by professional artist Barry John Raybould and started building her portfolio.

“I enjoy the process of learning about art as much as the process of creating it. I don’t expect that to change anytime soon,” smiles Subha.

What’s more, this talented artist also holds an undergraduate degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT, Powai) from Mumbai.

Challenges faced

As a management consultant, Subha’s work hours can fluctuate wildly and are dependent on the needs of her clients.

She adds, “I sometimes have to work 14-15 hours a day, while other days are less demanding. My artistic passions are a boon in disguise – I paint whenever I can, wherever I can. I sometimes paint when I need to take a break from work too. When I have to travel for work, it can get tricky, since I cannot realistically take all my art supplies with me. However, I have also learned that I don’t always need a paintbrush in my hand to pursue my art – when I travel with my husband, meet an old friend, or even go for a walk by myself, I am always on the lookout for ideas and imagery for new artwork.”

Artistic and literary influences of Bengali culture 

Subha was born in Calcutta, and spent most of her childhood there and owing to the Bengali culture prevalent both inside and outside her home she was greatly influenced by the music, films and art.

She further adds, “In particular, Hindu mythology and its influence on our lives today fascinates me. I have been studying the work of Bengali folk artists and their creative depictions of rural life. I absolutely love Jamini Roy’s work and one of my paintings “Ma Durga” was inspired by his unique style.”

Examples of her artwork that have a reflection of her approach to life

Subha recalls, “I once spoke to an accomplished artist who told me I needed to “find my style” in order to be taken seriously as an artist. While the artist made some relevant points, I do not feel the need to be thematically or stylistically constrained as an artist. My artwork is exploratory in that I create art that is inspired by a variety of themes in the spiritual, natural, and human realm.”

While she normally likes to work on acrylics on canvas, she also experiments with oils, water colours and mixed media. In fact, Subha has even used grains of rice to create a texture for a natural landscape and is now just at the beginning to explore the world of pure abstraction and is thoroughly enjoying the experience of pushing the boundaries of her perceptive biases or limitations.

What you should look out for in her art 

One of the most intriguing aspects of art is that it represents different things to different people. While Subha usually likes to paint around a central thought or emotion in mind, but what she really enjoys is the reactions she gets from her audience – they often make associations with her work that never even crossed their mind!

“That said, I would hope that the central themes of my artwork do connect with the viewer. My work primarily explores three themes – ancient mythology and spirituality, natural wonders, and my most interesting subject, the complexities, struggles and the beauty of the human condition. Within these themes, I use geometric patterns, mixed media and colour juxtaposition to provide the depth and complexity I wish to convey through my paintings,” mentions Subha.

Experimenting with vivid colours, layers and textures – her favourite style?

Subha’s love for the impressionistic style of art, as well as her personal attachment to vibrant colours and textures, makes her gravitate towards subjects that allow her to explore these aspects. The freedom and ease of using the palette knife to mix hues on canvas and create surfaces make it her favourite tool to create abstract and impressionistic landscapes and cityscapes.

Promotion, marketing and selling 

“As of now my main focus has been to develop my style and portfolio, but since a large part of the creative process is its interaction with the world, I have shared my work with various local and national galleries, art curators and on the marketplace (Etsy and Saatchi Art),” says Subha.

She feels fortunate to have been selected for a number of national and international juried joint shows in the US. Seeing her paintings up on the walls at these events has been a surreal experience and gives her great joy that her work has found a place and a connection with the world.

Future plans for ‘art by Subha Chaudhuri’? 

She believes that art, in all its forms has the power to change the minds and hearts of people and if her work continues to build an audience, she hopes to devote more time to create work for social causes that Subha believes in to influence the changes that she wants to see in the world.

“Quoting my favourite artist Van Gogh “For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream” – I see the next 3 to 5 years as an exploratory phase of my artistic interests and abilities that will be reflected in the artwork,” concludes Subha.

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