Sudnya Shroff and the Silent Language of Pure Feeling

Beach Towel, Paintings60 x 72
India has recently emerged as a major player on the world`s art map, with modern Indian masters such as F.N. Souza and M.F. Husain commanding prime prices on the international auction circuit. Something of their vivid colors and high spirits can be seen in the paintings of Sudnya Shroff, a recently naturalized (2006) American citizen - born in Pune, India, but now living and working in Los Altos and San Francisco, California. After experimenting freely with various mediums and techniques, including brushes, palette knives and other tools, Shroff discovered that she expresses herself best by manipulating acrylic paint on canvas with her bare hands. As opposed to standard artist pigments, her preferred medium is Sherwin Williams acrylic wall paint and what she calls “controlled physical movement of the canvas” to produce certain effects. In this regard she seems a spiritual descendent of Jackson Pollock, who also often favored house paints over more usual art materials, possibly for their more freely flowing quality.
   Certainly Shroff’s literally “hands on” technique produces dynamically visceral effects that enhance the drama and power of her work, lending her compositions a directness that she describes as “snapshots of my internal emotional state at the time that I make them.” In an art world often dominated by deliberately contrived methods, she just may be one of the very last true “action painters,” to borrow the term which the great art critic Harold Rosenberg used for the early innovators of the Abstract Expressionist movement.
    Although Shroff’s aggressive forms are as adamantly abstract and filled with conviction and movement as those of any of the New York School pioneers, her compositions often contain allusions to natural forms, such as floral contours that flow and swell to the very edges of the canvas in graceful curves. In other works, such as “My Field,” and “Renewal,” the flowers become more specific without ever sacrificing the formal integrity that underlies all of these compositions.
    The floral imagery ranging over several joined panels in “My Field” is painted in soft yet vibrant pastel pinks, blues, and greens that, although less harsh, could almost remind one of the Day-glo silkscreens of Andy Warhol, while the more delicately delineated green stems and yellow blooms set against a subtle blue ground in “Renewal” show a consummate sensitivity. Indeed, here the artist’s exquisite sense of spatial apportioning and use of strategic “emptiness” is  splendidly reminiscent of that of Chinese classical scroll painting, albeit skillfully translated into the more physical conventions of Western painting.
    Shroff pulls out all the stops, both coloristically and in tactile terms, in “Surf Boards,” a magnificently sumptuous work consisting solely of vertical stripes of juicy color. Then there is “Smitten,” another large canvas in slightly more muted and milky reds, greens, and pale blues. Here, the mellow hues are contained within a composition in which the central shape flows out from the center like Fourth of July fireworks or a huge blowup of the stamens in a flower. It is difficult to remember any painter in the past who gave such warm resonance to the emotion of infatuation without stooping to sentimental allegory.
    Sudnya Shroff is a marvelously uninhibited yet consummately disciplined self-taught talent. Which is to say: She obviously gained a great deal of expert knowledge regarding the qualities of paint and how they can be exploited most effectively in the long apprenticeship to which she subjected herself, and now she employs them with perfect control within her energetically extemporaneous approach to visual composition. In this way, she shares her innermost feelings, emotions with which any person of refined sensibility should be able to identify. Her viewers will be all the richer for it.   –– Maurice Taplinger  for Gallery and Studio

Sudnya Shroff, Agora Gallery, 530 West 25th St., September 15 - October 5, 2012. Reception: Thursday, September 20, 6 - 8 pm.

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