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Geetha Thurairajah

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Photo courtesy of the artist and Loyal Gallery, Stockholm

Work / Art

Geetha Thurairajah’s tablet-drawn paintings question art history and its meaningfulness

Artist Geetha Thurairajah’s paintings are “theatrical spaces that exist in a state of inbetweenness”, operating in both the digital and physical world, they are at once representational and abstract. “I am interested in playing with the logic of symbols, forcing them to operate in often contradictory ways,” explains Toronto-based Geetha. “For instance, birds in the far distance will sit on top of the painting as impastoed paint or the lines that represent movement on a tipping coffee cup will be frozen in time and space.”

This urge to play with perspective and perception comes from Geetha’s interest in art history and there are “nods to it in every painting”. As an artist though, she’s keen to revise this history, “as an artist who has never seen myself within it,” she says. “With every painting there is an attempt to create a new space that questions our realities and proposes new ways of thinking about our histories.”

Using the canvas as her portal, painting allows Geetha to create “impossible spaces” and one of the artist’s main challenges is trying to avoid repetition in her work, but still convey connected themes. “Sometimes I feel like I’m reinventing the wheel with each new painting, which can feel really overwhelming!” she says. “I approach my work in a similar vein to the symbolists. They reacted against naturalism and realism in favour of spirituality, personal expression and dreams. While my work is grounded in naturalism it always offers a contradiction to its realities. The themes of escapism, theatrics, post-colonial subjectivity and semiotics seem to be recurrent within my work.”

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Geetha Thurairajah: installation at Projet Pangee

Echoing these ideas of escapism and theatrics is Geetha’s rich, jewel-like colour palette which mixes vibrant shades with more subdued browns and greys. With each new painting, the artist is questioning why she is creating it and how she can push her chosen medium further. “I’m concerned with re-writing narratives from painting’s history while questioning its relevance today. I like to work quickly but I also have a tendency to overwork things. Drawing on a tablet gives me access to the full colour spectrum, expediency and forces me to simplify forms – it feels like the most direct way for me to translate an idea,” Geetha explains. “I create my drawings digitally on a tablet and then translate these drawings into physical paintings through a process that incorporates technology like the airbrush but also traditional brushwork.”   

This questioning of her process is integral to Geetha’s whole ethos to her work. “I’m trying to pose more questions about painting – why its history matters, what it means today and how to tell a story that highlights a certain alienation in contemporary life but also revises visual history that has been burdened by patriarchy.”

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Geetha Thurairajah: Drink up ‘cause Tahiti ain’t free

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Geetha Thurairajah: We left she stayed

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Geetha Thurairajah: it wasn’t the right kind of performance and now we’re not friends, but I just heard from your sister

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Geetha Thurairajah: From here you look different to me

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Geetha Thurairajah: Finding our Way Back. Photo courtesy of the artist and A.C. Repair Co., Toronto

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Geetha Thurairajah: An existence after my own heart

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Geetha Thurairajah: A Vision in the Field. Photo courtesy of the artist and Projet Pangée, Montreal