INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST ABOUT HER LARGER-THAN-LIFE BANNERS ON DISPLAY
This winter, the Rincon Center in the bustling heart of San Francisco becomes a vibrant canvas of color and energy, showcasing the extraordinary work of abstract artist Usha Shukla. Known for her innovative technique of using a leaf blower to create mesmerizing ripple effects in paint, Usha’s large-scale banners based on her original painting Take a Breath, capture the eyes and hearts of passersby. These banners not only bring a burst of color to the urban landscape but also offer a moment of pause and reflection amidst the bustling public space.
In our exclusive interview, we delve into the artist’s journey from India to developing her unique style, and the inspiration behind her impactful work at the Rincon Center, offering viewers a serene contemplative experience.
AV: What initially drew you to the world of abstract art?
US: Growing up in India, art for me was folk and traditional art. Later, when I came to the US and started visiting galleries as part of my education, I was introduced to different genres of art. But abstract art always felt special to me because of its uniqueness and how personal it was to an artist. I knew then that if I ever became a professional artist, I would express myself in my own way.
AV: Can you share a bit about your journey as an artist? How did you develop your signature style?
US: I used to believe that artists were inherently talented and that artistic skills cannot be learned or taught. But during a visit to the Louvre Museum in Paris, I discovered that I loved being in the company of art and artists. I felt serene sitting and admiring the artists’ work in museums and on the streets of Paris. This experience left a profound impression on me; I started to think about expressing myself through art. While there, I made up my mind to be a professional artist someday. When I returned back home, I joined my local community college in Livermore and took art courses and then went on to graduate school at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco for my MFA degree.
For my graduate thesis, I initially struggled to find my voice. I spent countless days creating works that were inspired by other artists, but I didn't feel a true connection to them. I decided to combine my passion for art with my love of nature. Being outdoors, I experienced the same refreshing sense of fresh air that I remember from my childhood. The idea of using air as an art tool came to my mind and inspired me to develop my own technique to paint. I started with a can of compressed air and moved on to different electronic air blowers.
AV: Your technique of using a leaf blower in creating abstract paintings is quite innovative. How did you come up with this idea?
US: I got the desired effects using small blowers but when working on larger paintings, I needed something with more power. I was always intrigued by how the breeze moves the landscape and I wanted to create the same effect in my paintings. A leaf blower was the perfect tool to have the same dynamics as a breeze, showing the movement of hues and textures found in nature. It was quite exhilarating when I first used the leaf blower. To be honest, it wasn’t easy to control the air to get the desired composition. My head, heart, and hands had to be in sync to get the pure expression I wanted to capture on the canvas.
AV: What inspired your painting Take a Breath, featured in the Rincon Center banners, and is there a specific message or feeling you hope viewers will experience when encountering your work on such a grand scale in a public setting?
US: In our daily lives, we are always hurrying, never pausing to look at and admire the natural beauty around us. Take a Breath invites the viewer to slow down, pause, and embark on a personal exploration within. It's an ode to tranquility found in nature amidst the frenzy of the material world.
I hope that my art in public places generates positive social impact. I intend these paintings to be uplifting and restorative, and to brighten the heart. The non-representational nature of my work lets viewers focus on their feelings evoked by the colors and shapes. The larger-than-life banners help viewers immerse themselves in the tranquil and welcoming space. This is a dream come true for me.
Catch Usha Shukla's captivating banners at the Rincon Center through the end of February. Bring a piece of the magic into your home by exploring our curated selection of original paintings, prints, and scarves by the artist on our website! Usha’s work, transcending mere visual appeal, promises a profound journey into beauty and contemplation. It's an invitation to pause, reflect, and connect deeply with the essence of art, offering a serene escape from the everyday. Don't miss this opportunity to experience her visionary art that challenges, inspires, and transforms.
Sign up for our mailing list and be the first to hear about new artwork arrivals, members-only events, and more exclusive artist interviews!