Tanya asked whether it would be okay to bring her boyfriend along for the interview and I said yes, grateful that it was Tanya coming and not some imposter like last time. The three of us walked to A1 and sat down around 11:30 p.m. Tanya and Andrew ordered exactly the same thing. Later, I visited her in her studio. It was very blue and smelled like oil. The blue was stretched tarps, wall-sized laquered paintings, small tie-dyes and paint everywhere. It was very clean and a working space. She had asked her mom to send fabric in “garish Indian colors,” and they were up.
Q A Yale painting teacher recently said, “You have to fight with your paintings. Sometimes the painting wins, sometimes you win.” Is this true? Who wins when you paint?
A I don’t think there is a fight. I don’t want to fight. My paintings are constantly changing-becoming. My paintings work after I’ve given up on them. It’s the day after or the month after.
Q If it were a fight, what weapon would you fight with?
A I’ll do something, then negate it — setting myself up a set of rules and then negating them. Dropping a big something on them.
Q You are from India. What was that like? Did you get into art-making there?
A I came here only two years back. I’m not residential here: I’m an alien. I mean I did my undergrad in India. I started making art there as I did everything there. I’m very much an Indian. In high school, I majored in art, math and economics. I did four years with a conservative teacher. My school was British, board rules—not changed since the 1940’s. She was very interested in us mastering technique. I perfected still life and nature studies. I liked my teacher. We went into the hills a lot together.
Q How or why did you come from there to here?
A I felt like graduate school in India would have nothing to offer me. I liked American art. It was between London and America. I don’t like the British, so I came here. I was disappointed by the London Bridge in ’96. It was just a bridge. I do like Pip from “Great Expectations.” He was as dismal as I was.
Q How often do you think of where you grew up?
A Every day. Every second of my life I miss it. I miss the food. I miss the air, the smell, the stinks.
Q Correct me if I’m wrong, but you are a painter who wants to paint paintings in the Yale MFA program?
A Yes and no. I do both. I want to go back to painting, so that’s what I’ve been doing — between process and gesture — trying to paint everything that’s off the grid. I look at everything as painting. I actually don’t like the word “in-between.” This term I’ve been trying to push all the way. When I bump into the core of a problem, I used to try to get to it through something different. Actually that is the grad school problem. You are given solutions from one small part of your practice.
Q Do you value spontaneity or awareness of decisions more?
A Negating the thing that I set up is part of spontaneity. The art school world would be intuitive. Best is spontaneity with full stops of consciousness.
Q What qualities do you look for in a friend?
A I have no idea what a friend is anymore.
Q How does someone get taken seriously?
A Tropes get to that. The most convenient answer for me is someone who acts the opposite. Or repetition. Switches to discussing how a person becomes serious in themselves. Repeating a word, like “Ohm.” There are rituals we perform in India to write something 1,000 times and it will come true. I want to believe in the magic of that. I need to have that belief. I felt like I lost it for a while and now I’m getting it back again.
Q Would you do the body paint for Sports Ilustrated’s swimsuit issue?
A I don’t know what that is. It sounds bad. I don’t think I would.
Q If you could be part of any gang, which would it be?
A I would like to be in the Mumbai brothers, mixed with Goanese culture.
Q What about Second Life?
A In India, we have seven lives.
Q Is it possible to think of nothing?
A No. Because nothing and everything is the same. It would always be this black sort space. But that is something.
A Andrew quotes Heidegger, “The most thought-provoking thing in this thought-provoking time is man has yet to think a thought.”
Q Would you rather live in total blackness forever or blinding whiteness forever?
A Blinding whiteness. That’s only cause I’m afraid of the dark. The dark that you experience for a millisecond when your eyes are adjusting, besides that there is no total blackness.
Q What are aesthetics?
A Oh god I don’t know. Whose aesthetics?
Q What about your aesthetics?
A I guess you could criticize them. Indian aesthetics sprang out of this little group of five men. They wrote in Sanskrit in the 4th and 5th century B.C. Truthfully, the only time I’ve enjoyed aesthetics is the aesthetics of drama.
Q Is there value in ornamentation or decoration?
A Yeah. I mean, that’s what art is. I don’t know any art that isn’t, or can do without it.
Q How do you present yourself?
A Presentation is something that continually evades me. Presentation is a part of dislocation, and that is a problem for me. In terms of dressing, on most days it’s what is good for the studio. Some days I dress up for me. I usually wear the same thing. I’m a big disappointment to my dad. He designs clothing.
Q Do you have an iconic piece of clothing?
A My dad made or designed almost everything I have. For me, it is my dad’s sweatshirt from when he was a boy. It was red but now its so faded it is almost brown.
Q A favorite object?
A Hm, my struggle with objects. I am trying to rid myself of all my objects. I have nothing in my room but a mattress. I do have a lot of stuff in my studio—but I’m trying to strip it down. My work is very bare.
In her studio, I think this is true.
Q For you, people would always be more attractive than objects?
A People. But very few people. I want to like people. It’s hard. There are a lot of people in India. At home, I’ve been giving away everything. I haven’t done that here because I haven’t established that community. America doesn’t have a gift-giving culture.
Q Do we live in a material culture?
A Yeah. America is made up of toilet paper and disposable cups. That only comes out of me being amazed by paper napkins. Only rich people have paper-disposable cups. In India we reuse everything. A lot of my work has to do with reusing.
Q What would be an ideal gift for you?
A A word or two on a little piece of paper stuck in the lock of a bicycle. A peacock feather. I love purple, the purple of a peacock. It’s very hard to make. That’s my color if I could pick one.
In her studio she showed me a hanging piece of fabric that was magenta one way, green when you flipped up the corner and light hit it. This is the color.