Excerpts from an interview with the artist:
“Growing up in Kolkata, India, in a large extended family, painter Chitra Ramanathan (FAA ’93, BUS ’97) remembers an art-filled childhood. At her preschool, she learned the music and dance of this culturally vibrant region, as well as drawing, painting, and working with clay. “I must have developed an early aptitude for art, constantly drawing everything I noticed around me,” she says.
She went on to earn a BFA from Stella Maris College at the University of Madras in Chennai, southern India. After moving to the United States, she enrolled in a second Bachelor of Fine Arts program at the School of Art and Design at Illinois, where she transitioned from portrait and landscape painting into more large-dimension work with abstract subject matter.
Formless Forms by Chitra Ramanathan
Formless Forms, 52″ × 68″
Ramanathan became interested in process and engaged in experiments, such as cycling large, unprimed canvases in her home washing machine after using temporary materials like tempera, charcoal, and chalk, along with permanent acrylic paints. “These ‘happy accidents’ emerged as partially faded areas from previous layers of the water-soluble mediums and presented me with exciting possibilities, renewed interpretations, and fresh imagery for the next step,” she explains. She compares the saturated details in these experiments with Indian Batik painting and Rangoli, temporary floor patterns made with brightly colored powder.
While a student at Illinois, she participated in a study abroad program in Paris, where she was drawn to Monet’s impressionist “haystack” series, as well as works of the expressionism movement. She sees the marriage of these two movements as the backbone of her current work: capturing the fleeting moments of impressionism with happiness as her subject”. College of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Illinois USA, April 2019.