By Heike Dempster
Original Post: Art Districts Magazine
“Defiant,” at N’Namdi Contemporary, encompasses 13 multi-layered works by Neha Vedapathak in which the artist offers a view into her innovative practice and recent explorations of space and landscape while inviting the viewer to delve deeper, literally and conceptually, into the works she has fabricated.
Born in India, Vedpathak created the majority of the works in the exhibition while living in Phoenix, Ariz. and Detroit, Mich., where she currently resides and maintains her studio. Using a unique technique of paper plucking she created herself, Vedpathak presents works that explore a variety of subjects via concept and process as well as multiple layers of materials, texture and color. Vedpathak studiously maintains her focus on the artistic process, innate qualities of materials, mystery of nature, idea of the ritual, concepts and interpretations of time and in the contemporary notion of space. In “Defiant,” Vedpathak closely investigates landscape, light and architecture, as well as society living and moving within that landscape, specifically Phoenix and Detroit.
The artist creates her lacy fabric out of handmade Japanese paper. With a small pushpin, she separates the individual fibers, which she then partially paints and molds. Natural pigment, sand, graphite, acrylic paint and thread shape each work into a multifaceted combustion of texture, color, movement, visual and emotional depth and conceptual layers that express months of manual process and thought. Occasionally, found objects, such as a mirror or piece of furniture, connect the works to places and storylines created elsewhere, which the artist then inserts and offers for reinterpretation.
Vedpathak’s practice is deeply linked to understanding materials and processes. Her innovative technique is repetitive, labor intensive, lengthy, ritualistic and meditative, and it allows her to engage and connect deeply with not just the materials and their qualities, but also to her own emotions, gestures and motions, as well as to the subject matter she explores. In her recent works, knowing the respective city that provides the basis for her investigations is part of the process. Living in and moving around the urban space, getting a sense of its identity, culture, motion, community, colors, lights, architecture, scents, sounds, temperature and seasons, is the only way she could be familiar enough to create such personal works. Vedpathak then translates those experiences as she plucks the paper, shapes and forms the artwork and marks it with paint.
Vedpathak considers the city’s landscape, architecture and image and observes its people to learn the story behind the story of the community. This knowledge and understanding of the heart of that city ensures it remains obvious and omnipresent in her works. Detroit, for example, feels less mystical than Phoenix, as it is city lights and buildings versus the desert and its unique characteristics. Consequently, in Detroit, she is more connected to contemporary urban life, and she places each layer of paper and paint to reflect that resilience, grit and the soul of working America. Detroit’s architecture is clearly represented in the lines the artist creates, and there are points of seamlessness and parts where rugged edges represent struggles and reality. Vedpathak never loses the delicate balance between beauty and flaws, idealism and reality.
Her art both makes observations and poses questions, beckoning the viewer to think, insert context and personal history, and imagine. The works do not demand answers or finite thoughts. Literally, in her artwork, wherever she separates fibers with her pin, the artist creates space. The space separates the fibers and speaks of separation yet, simultaneously, the separation makes connections even clearer and more obvious. These connections outline the delicate mesh surrounding the holes leading into the infinite space that allows Vedpathak to hint at the multiple narratives coexisting in the city, which are being written and rewritten constantly and continuously, ever shifting and in flux.
How does she capture the movement of time, life and narratives? Her approach is slow, calm and intensive. Each work requires time, which becomes an innate part of the final work. The holes created by the pin allow air, space, time and light to move in, out and through the work. Some spaces may be closed with paint but others remain open. The light passing through and the delicate paper create shadows and patterns, suggestive of additional conceptual layers and narratives, the deeper stories the artist and viewers have yet to explore.
The paper seems fragile yet strong, whimsical yet powerful, different from up close than from afar, just like the places and spaces and subjects Vedpathak is interested in understanding. Her work is not about perfection; rather, it is about the process of thinking, creating and understanding and about sharing emotions, investigations, ideas and visual interpretations of life.
“Neha Vedpathak: Defiant” is on view at N’Namdi Contemporary through the end of May 2017. 117 NW 23rd Street. Wynwood Art District. Miami, 33127 | www.nnamdicontemporary.com
Heike Dempster is a writer and radio host based in Miami and actively involved in the local art scene.