Artist Shalu Juneja was born in November, 23rd 1966, in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. She enrolled for a Masters in Fine Arts at Stella Maris College, Chennai after which she moved to Ahmedabad and continues to live and practice there at her own studio. Shalu works across diverse media, sketching, painting and hand-built sculptures in stoneware. Her art majorly delves on the physical and emotional reactions within the human form. She adopts a figurative abstract style and loves to experiment with techniques and the spontaneous use of mark making and texture on canvas.
After college, Shalu had a few solo shows in Chennai and Ahmedabad, her first solo show being ‘Genesis’, a series in ink on paper at the Chola Sheraton Art Gallery in 1990. Thereafter she had two more solo shows in Ahmedabad, ‘Ganesha’ at the Lalit Kala Art Gallery in 1993 and ‘Woman’ in Hutheesing Art Gallery in 1995. Shalu then ventured into learning and practicing other techniques such as glass fusing, wood inlay and studio pottery, in search of a new voice and set up her art store by the name Art N What Not. In her tenure as a creator at Art N What Not, she has executed large scale commissioned art projects, ceramic murals and wall art using Indian folk techniques such as Gond and Madhubani and giving them a contemporary flavour.
Shalu currently leads the course development and teaching at the academy. Twenty years as an educator and a mentor finally led her to a desire to paint again with a new found voice, freedom and fearlessness. Her latest series ‘Body Language’ and ‘Moon in My Lotus Pond’ is the beginning of a new era and a new voice which she expresses with mixed media.
What integral to the work of an artist?
I think to be able to express oneself without fear, be it political, social, cultural and personal. To improve one’s skill and add strength to your ideas supported by constant research and awareness of the world around you.
What role does the artist have in society?
Artists must first be true to themselves and use their art to serve the community with a voice that addresses it’s issues. Most of all they should have empathy towards the world and bring about a change in whatever small way they can.
What art do you most identify with?
I appreciate art that’s conceptual. I am drawn towards multi- sensory art
What themes do you pursue?
My art majorly delves on the physical and emotional reactions within the human form and it’s close connection to nature. All the elements of nature, especially Earth, Water, fire find their way through various mediums in my art.
What’s your favourite art work?
My favourite art are works by Anselm Kiefer. I Iove his large scale earthy magnified works, especially the use of organic elements that pull you in
Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?
Suffering from a chronic skin ailment and seeing my body slowly change with time, often reacting to even the slightest physical and emotional triggers leaving an ugly mark on it’s surface, makes the surface of most of my work. I am inspired by nature, where I look for order in chaos and the design of decay.
What jobs have you done other than being an artist?
After college I had a couple of shows and then ventured into learning and practicing other techniques such as glass fusing, wood inlay and studio pottery. I then set up my art store by the name Art N What Not. As a creator at Art N What Not, I executed large scale commissioned art projects, ceramic murals and wall art using Indian folk techniques such as Gond and Madhubani by giving them a contemporary flavour. My forte’ as a designer cum artist was in reviving old furniture into functional art. Soon after, I closed the store down and entered the realm of art education and co- founded Uno Lona Academy with a passion for moulding and mentoring young adults. I currently lead the course development and teaching at the academy
Why not art? There is isn’t anything else for me. Art is life. Art gives to you a heart that knows to beat differently.
What is an artistic outlook on life?
The whole philosophy of creation and expression. Our lifestyle revolves around relationships and emotions, and how creative we are in connecting and expressing them is an artistic process.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
When the eminent artist Amit Ambalal recognized my talent and potential with just a small scribble I had gifted him. He prodded me to start painting. I restarted my art practice and I have since then never stopped.
What food, drink, song inspires you?
I love to experiment with food and try new cuisines. I love my beer and rum, and I am inspired by most of the songs written by Gulzar. I also love Sufi sayings which often appear as text in many of my works
Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
An artist is never lonely, just comfortable in her/his own space. I am lonely in a crowd, that’s when I am at my comic best to overcome boredom.
What do you dislike about the art world?
Trends. They are confusing and irrelevant.
What do you dislike about your work? What do you like about your work?
I work in layers, sometime I feel I should minimize the clutter. I’m consciously working towards a more abstract and minimal expression of my ideas. I like the fact that I have found a visual language that is my identity.
Should art be funded?
Yes it should. Many talented artists need the support to be able to pursue art and make a living out of it.
What role does art funding have?
It needs to recognize talent from far and near and bring them to the mainstream.
What is your dream project?
My dream project would be to be part of the Kochi Biennale and create a large scale installation for one of the warehouses.
Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.
Salman Toor , Zhuang Hong and Takesada matsutani
Favourite or most inspirational place?
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
To paint fearlessly and consistently.
Professionally, what’s your goal?
Artistically, I take every day as it comes but professionally I am looking for a gallery representation that would help me take my works far and wide, especially to the biennale and art fairs.
Keep painting of course. And exhibiting my work as much as possible through various channels. I also wish to create large scale multi sensory conceptual work.