A seascape in watercolour.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Fresh from his success with Impressions, a solo exhibition at Gallery 76 in Dubai International Art Centre (Oct 2 -16), Kerala (India) born, UAE based artist Bonny Mathew who specialises in watercolour, oil and casein mediums, finds inspirations everywhere.
They come from various sources, be it a shadow cast on a sunny morning, the waves of the ocean, clouds, people or from the observation of still life. A self-taught artist, he has been drawn to drawing and painting right from childhood. During student days and in the workplace, he found opportunities to make figurative sketches and caricatures.
Works of world Masters in oil and watercolour have also had a great influence on his philosophy of perceiving subjects and transferring them to paper and canvas.He loves to travel and explore new locations and subjects, and it has become his passion to capture the mood of the scene in light and shade, with subtle colour schemes. He loves to work en plein air, whenever weather permits.
“I enjoy solo outings to Nature to capture the play of sunlight, which draws infinite permutations of shadows and reflections across the seasons,” he says. He regards Nature as the best school and a compassionate teacher for any student of art – the Nature theme is often found in his works.
He also reads and travels to explore new locations for kindling ideas and discovering techniques for painting. The fire, intensity and sunshine of van Gogh, the plein air (outdoor) impressions of Nature as expressed by Monet, the technical finesse of Sargent, the versatility of Seago’s landscapes, seascapes, skyscapes and street scenes, the flamboyance of Castagnet, the muted tones of Zbukvic’s representational landscapes and the works of Wade, Australia’s “Unofficial Ambassador of Watercolour”, have all made an impress on him.
Mathew answers Gulf Today’s questions Why did you want to be an artist? Honestly, being an artist was not a conscious decision — which means an artist was there always within me. It has been a natural evolution for me. Who are the Masters who inspire your art, dead or living?I was drawn to the works of most of the Impressionists and post-Impressionist painters of the 19th and early 29th centuries early on. Vincent van Gogh to Claude Monet, represent the Masters of the time mentioned. Artists who have mastered watercolour and oil media such as John Singer Sargent and Edward Seago, also have influenced and inspired me.
They still do. Living artists who have impacted me include Alvaro Castagnet, Joseph Zbukvic and Robert Wade. What are the skills needed to work in watercolour and oil, respectively?Understanding the medium is important for each of them. There are aspects to be mastered common to both mediums, such as composition, tonal precision, perspectives (both linear and atmospheric), shapes, edges, etc. Watercolour is a master’s medium, difficult to excel.
It demands utmost control over the medium, which is quite unforgiving at times. Generally, watercolour application progresses from light to dark; but oil medium works the opposite way. Oil medium requires mastery in handling the pigments and oil mediums, which are numerous in the market. Choosing the surface to paint also needs careful consideration. You like to paint Nature. How does Nature in Kerala, where you hail from, and that in the Emirates, inspire you?Nature gives us more flexibility in choosing and composing the subject. It doesn’t really matter which aspect of Nature inspires more.
Inspiration comes from within like any natural urge; but this is more of an aesthetic thirst. When you are obsessed with a creative spirit, it really doesn’t matter where you are, if you are able to convert what you see in front of you into a piece of art. But honestly, I like to paint figures and still life subjects as well. Do you work as and when the mood strikes you, or according to plan?I never plan to work; but if I do, that turns out to be mechanical and laborious. A work of art just happens, maybe when the mood strikes; but seldom according to plan.
Does one have to radically redo the template to work as an artist in the UAE, after working as one in Kerala? Are there tremendous cultural differences between both regions you had to adjust to?As mentioned above, artists do not follow any templates. It’s a natural urge that turns out to become honest creations. It may depend on the intention of the artist: I do not see any radical change that is required. Same applies to the logic of cultural differences. Can you compare and contrast the art ecology in Kerala and here?Art ecology is different in both places.
Here, there are many galleries that expose you to international art collectors and art lovers. Have you held shows in Kerala? If so, can you provide details of the exhibitions?I haven’t held any shows in Kerala yet. Do you belong to an artists’ circle, where you find and give support and encouragement? I belong to one of the prominent art centres in Dubai, where I impart skills that I have learned to aspiring artists. In what departments of artmaking do you think you have to work to improve yourself as an artist?I need to improve in every department, honestly. I’m still learning.
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