Monday, November 03, 2008

Art Space Talk: Antonio Puri

Antonio Puri states that his art is his means of identifying with the universe. Puri utilizes symbols, forms, and spatial concern as a means to express his need for universality. His inspiration comes from the unity between the microscopic and the macrocosmic. In a sense, his painting process is also designed to bridge the gap between the known and the unknown.

Voyage 3, Mixed Media on Canvas, 36" X 36", 2008

Brian Sherwin: Antonio, you studied at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. Can you discuss your academic years? Did you have any influential art instructors?

Antonio Puri: I loved San Francisco. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t left. As far as instructors though, the most significant art teacher I had was in Iowa. His name was Bob Kocher and he taught painting. I remember how he pushed me to think outside the box. I was very comfortable doing landscape paintings and still life but he helped me realize there was more than that. From the very first abstract painting I made I was in love. I found it to be so liberating to be able to paint from sources inside of me rather than what was outside.
Janm 1, Mixed Media on Canvas, 20" X 20", 2007-2008

BS: You have stated that your inspiration comes from the unity between the microscopic and the macrocosmic. Can you go into further detail about this? Tell us more about the philosophy behind your art.

AP: My work is about Oneness. Things that are so small that cannot be seen with the naked eyes have a relationship with things that are too large to see, like supernovas and nebulas. I found the similarities fascinating. I remember reading in Eastern mysticism that things which are inside us are also outside of us. This idea troubled me for years, since it seemed like a contradiction. However, looking at the similarities between the micro and macro, things started to make more sense. My goal was to make works that could be seen as both large and small simultaneously. The mitosis series was born from that quest.

Crown Chakra, Mixed Media on Canvas, 72" X 72", 2008

BS: Can you discuss some of the symbolism involved with your art?

AP: Targets are a perfect example. There is a definite history to the target motif used by Johns, Noland and others, but they could also be mandalas used in Buddhist expressions of meditations. It is this overlap of meanings that symbols present that excites me. When the same images can be seen by different cultures as meaning different things, it is ultimately abstract.

BS: What about your methods as far as your painting is concerned? I understand that you utilize materials that sometimes resist each other. Can you discuss some of your techniques and your thoughts behind some of the materials that you use?

AP: I studied batik when I was very young, around 12 years old. The idea of wax resisting the dye was thrilling. When I studied painting I felt that the traditional process of painting usually covers up layers and layers of paint. So I decided to apply the batik process to my paintings. I had to modify the process so I could work with wax and acrylics and oils.
The fact that wax would repel washes of acrylics allowed me to experiment with a variety of applications not easy to create with traditional paints. For example, if I was to have a drip which changed colors as it went on that would be almost impossible by using just paints. But a drip made of wax covering several colors would make this possible. Of course I would need to burn off the wax with newspapers and irons before the colors underneath are revealed. I realize it can get confusing talking about this without a real demo but hopefully it makes sense.

I also experiment with paints of different viscosities to create a resist affect. The whole concept is to break down paradigms that say what we cannot do. It is this feeling of separation that I resist. Is it possible to make oil and water one? Can collage and painting fuse together? I started to experiment with all kinds of materials and techniques and hope to continue that.
Stairway 4, Mixed Media on Canvas, 30" X 30", 2008

BS: What about other influences? Do you adhere to any specific art tradition, so to speak? Are you inspired directly by any specific artist from the past?

AP: I definitely have a deep respect for abstract expressionism. I find Pollock, Kiefer, Johns, Rothko, Rauschenberg, De Kooning, among others, very inspiring. Nonetheless, I don’t see my art as derivative of any of these artists but an attempt to create a synthesis between the past and present. By incorporating my own life experiences and philosophy to the work, it separates it from any particular school of thought. Personally I prefer to stay away from labeling the work as belonging to a specific tradition.

BS: What are you working on at this time? Can you give our readers some insight into your most current work?

AP: I have been working on an afterlife series. I find death and afterlife are issues which are treated so differently by various societies that I wanted to address it in my work. To see death and birth into another life as the same thing continues my exploration of oneness. I created a work which incorporated crematory ashes and saw this as an afterlife for those ashes. I am pursuing a more conceptual idea now where I am asking donors to will their ashes to me. Of course it is conceivable that I may never get to use those ashes in case I transcend before my donors, but it is the idea which has merit for me. By willing one’s ashes an individual has to think about their own demise and afterlife. Some cultures are more open and receptive to these ideas than others, and it is quite revealing how each reacts. It is by understanding death that we can begin to live.

BS: Will you be involved with any upcoming exhibits?

AP: I am currently in a group show with eleven international abstract artists known as Pintura Fresca. We met on the internet and have been showing our work together around the world. The show has already traveled to Singapore, UK, and is now in San Francisco at the California Institute for Integral Studies.
The opening reception is on November 7th at 7pm. You can get more information on the group and exhibition at There are several other exhibitions I have coming up in Philadelphia, Bethesda, Arizona, and India. I try and keep an updated list of exhibitions on my home page:
Open when Closed, Mixed Media on Canvas, 72" X 72" X 3", 2007

BS: Speaking of exhibiting… what do enjoy about displaying your art in public view? Do you see it as part of the process, so to speak?

AP: The public is a crucial part of the art making process. Especially in my new afterlife series, the public is one with the art. By having the audience participate in signing the donor list, they become a piece of the art. It is unifying the viewing experience and the participating experience. I enjoy the opinions that people express because it is out of those differences that I find unity. If the art would be the same to everyone it might get boring.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the goals that you have?

AP: No, I feel like I have already said too much. Thanks Brian.

You can learn more about Antonio Puri by visiting his website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

I love the liquid feel of these works.