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Q&A with Raazia Chandoo

Q&A with Raazia Chandoo

Raazia Hasan Chandoo’s unique three-dimensional renderings combine the language of art, architecture, and ornament to create an immersive environment. Relying on the grid that is ubiquitous in the art of our century, Chandoo’s 3D frame within frame maps the space in her work while emphasising the materiality of its physical qualities and the aesthetic dimensions of the same surface. Her spare rectangular shapes recall Minimalist geometry and its repetitive element that she transcribes to create a sense of infinity in her watercolours and drawings on paper. The diagonals of her structure lead to a single point perspective embedded within the recesses of her inner rooms that evoke a mysterious sanctum sanctorum. Deeply influenced by Islamic architecture and its interlacing patterns, Chandoo’s all over filigree designs, which cover her works, serve a deeper transcendental purpose. These semi-translucent veils both obscure and direct the viewers’ eyes that scan the surface in a maze of discovery toward the inner rooms. A meditative trance is induced by the prismatic effect of the grid and the intricate, decorative elements that highlight the recurring presence of the infinity of time and space in her works.   Chandoo’s art effortlessly blends ornamentation with fine painting conjuring the Pattern and Decorative movement of the ‘70s that was spearheaded by Valerie Jaudon. Her work resonates for its alluring historical connections with the 19th century Symbolist and Aesthetic movements, but more importantly with Frank Stella’s Protractor Series that were highly inspired by Islamic interlacing schemes from his trip to the Middle East in the ‘60s.  Much like Stella’s Series, Chandoo’s bejeweled colour palette of reds, oranges, aquamarines, turquoise and gold, enriched by her frequent visits to Pakistan and the vibrant colours of local truck decorations, heighten the beauty and mystery of her art. The significance of craftsmanship is crucial to Chandoo’s art-making practice. Her minimalist ornaments that she refers to as sculpture are an outcome of her facility to bind craft and sculpture. The artist’s commitment to craftsmanship that began with her early love for embroidery is her preservation of an art practice that is fast disappearing. She sees her art as an attempt to slow time and reinforce man’s dexterity vis-à-vis technology. For Chandoo, the ultimate depth of her creation lies in its transcendental quality that intends to negate dark global events and create joy amidst chaos. She strongly believes that, “If art is to remain an entity it has to go beyond daily existence and contribute to new philosophy. It must rise above culture and creed and resonate with the human soul.” Raazia Chandoo was born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan. She completed her education at the Rhode Island School of Design and Pratt Institute. Her work has been showcased at the VM Gallery in Karachi, the Bowery Poetry Club in New York and the White Plains Public Library Museum Gallery in White Plains, New York. The artist resides with her husband and children in Armonk, New York

How did you start making art? 

Raazia Chandoo: “I grew up in an environment in which there was limited access to fine art materials while young. At that time, I applied myself to learning some domestic arts such as needlework, knitting and crochet. During my teens, I designed a stage set for a school play, made earrings from watermelon seeds, a bird cage from flowers, a puppet theater in a shoe box, painted and drew. Creating objects in any available materials became a voice.”

Briefly describe your art from the perspective of what it could tell us about you? 

RC: “I like to think that my art defies boundaries and belongs to no current trend. Tradition and modernity combine, as do image and pattern. I return from yearly visits to Pakistan enriched by what I may have observed in my surroundings. The execution of the ideas is based on memories, more sensorial than concrete. Political thought is negated and festivity and joy amidst chaos is emphasised. Time consuming hand work is fast disappearing from the planet and my work attempts to slow time and reinforce man’s ability versus technology.”

What experiences have most influenced your choice of subject matter, medium and style? 

RC: “The work has evolved with time and new materials have been incorporated for its execution. I work primarily in water-based mediums for their relative non-toxicity. This was necessary while raising children and working from home. Exploring childhood memories and dreams came naturally while studying Jung in college. This influenced my current style: wandering, veil covered in a maze of self-discovery. Prismatic lighting makes this a transcendental experience.”

Is your formal or informal training useful? How? 
RC: “Formal training required discipline, commitment, vision and mastery of technique. Inspiration arises from informal training and the work is a result of the combination.”

Does your work reflect issues in society and community? What would you say is the purpose of making art? 
RC: “The work is an antithesis of the issues in today’s world. We are constantly bombarded with information about dark global events. If art is to remain an entity, it has to go beyond daily existence and contribute to new philosophy. It must rise above culture and creed and resonate within the human soul.”

Do you appreciate culturally specific works of art? If so, how does your cultural background show up in your work? 

RC: “Geometric Islamic art and its glorification of infinite time and space has served as a reoccurring resource. The work is a form of meditation requiring repetition and concentration. Influences range from Pakistani truck art for its use of vibrant colour and meditative process, embellishment of costumes and environment with rural textiles for its dying tradition to op and pop art.”

Is there anything you would like to say about the local art scene or the international art market, art education and the system for art exhibition? 
RC: “There are contradictory opinions regarding what art ‘should be about’. Trends and art as investment play a large role in today’s art market. If a work of art is to be looked at as a philosophy, it must not be restricted to just a few.”

How does your current portfolio fit into the rest of your body of work?
RC: “I limited myself to working with the geometry of the circle as part of a base to explore colour. Executing a large scale work in this format suggested construction of some sort as part of the ongoing process. I have adapted the medium from mixed media on paper to mixed media on canvas. The work is showing some surprising results.”

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