A Review: “Colour Fields and Hard Edges”
By: Maureen Korp, PhD, Writer, lecturer and independent curator
Freedoms and Limits: The work of artist Shaukat Chaney
“Colour Fields and Hard Edges,” a recent exhibition (September, 2016) by artist Shaukat Chaney at Ottawa’s EBA Studios was a tour de force. The artist showed twenty-six small acrylic paintings, each on an exemplary, controlled composition of curved planes of colour. All were painted freehand, without the use of preliminary drawings.
The smallest painting in the series is 76 x 76cm, the largest 152 x152cm. At first, what holds the viewer’s attention is the precision of colour and line, balance, form, and rhythm seen on the canvas. The scale is personal, one meant to be seen intimately. The viewer looks, then looks again. There is something more to be seen, to be seen quietly.
People responded well to the artist’s first solo exhibition of his paintings in Ottawa. Ten were sold and raised $3000.00 for an Ottawa women’s shelter.
In Shaukat Chaney’s paintings colours open and curve into pathways. They could be described as drawings of ancient isobars, equivalences and directions, pathways of energies.
Much of the time, we are unaware of these older energies. in Chaney’s compositions, however, we begin to apprehend other, older realities.
Artists have long known the process of putting line and colour on a flat plane may enable both artist and viewer to obtain knowledge of another reality if the artist, at the outset, has the talent of “second sight”. The best do have that talent.
Russian artist Vassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), for example, spoke of his work arising from an “inner awareness”, an “inner condition”. Kandinsky painted his first non-objective painting, a “composition” (as he termed it ) in 1910. The artist had just been to an exhibition of Muslim art in Munich. No record is known of what was shown, only of Kandinsky’s response to the exhibition. The following year, his magisterial essay, “The Spiritual in Art” appeared. It remains important to this day.
Closer to our own time, in a 1989 conversation with myself, Canadian Dene artist Alex Janvier (1935- ) stated: “You have to get your source straight before you paint. Art comes from a sixth sense, you’re only looking at it with five senses….. Fear has to disappear somewhere along the line in order to release creative energy”
The titles of Shaukat Chaney’s paintings are drawn from insights he obtains while meticulously applying paint to canvas. Some titles take their reference point from everyday miracles of the natural world – flights of birds and butterflies, for example. Others acknowledge old stories. The paintings entitled “Himalayan Molan”, “Ganesh” and “Shanti” all have their origins in tales from the subcontinent of India. Still other titles reference the artist’s observations of the people around him. “Embrace” is one of these, “A Quiet Conversation” another.
Only one of the twenty-six paintings in the 2016 series places the viewer outside its imagery. “Blood Moon” is a painting of a black sky with a red moon rising above a low horizon line. We stand and look at it, not into it. Is this black night scenario the start of another series of paintings? Very possibly.
The earth is round, a blue globe floating silently in the dark. Every child knows that “fact”. Our lived experience of the earth, however, is another matter. Most of us in the world today live in a place of hard edges, asphalt and concrete surfaces, a raucous world, to be sure. If we knew better how to find moments of quiet in our own noisy lives, we might see more.
Shaukat Chaney’s paintings point to pathways beyond. The Curving forms of colours pull us into quieter, clearer, more evenly balanced perspectives.
As an artist, Shaukat Chaney’s knowledge base is unusually multi-dimensional. The artist is also an award-winning sculptor.
Born in India and schooled in India, the United States and Canada the artist once earned his livelihood as a specialist in reconstructive dentistry. Today he and his family live in Cumberland, Ontario.
Whatever the medium, Shaukat Chaney sees his own work as a “dialogue between freedoms and limits”. The viewer is privileged to enter into the dialogue.
Maureen Korp, PhD