Whitehot Magazine

Shwetlana Mehta on Making Vibrant Paintings with Personal Stories

Shwetlana Mehta, The White Series, 2023,  16” x 20”, oil on Canvas


February 23, 2024

Whitehot: Tell me about your childhood and how you got interested in making paintings?

Shwetlana Mehta: I was born into a family were both my parents have been working in the field of Finance and Law. I am the first artist in my family. I can still recall memories from my childhood when my mother introduced me to paints and encouraged me to freely play around with them. My parents noticed my interest in drawing and painting and pushed me to hone my skills. Slowly, I developed a passion for painting, I was able to express my emotions and personal narratives through the medium. During high school, I decided to make my passion into a profession and decided to be a visual artist.

W: Where did you go to art school?

S: I went to The School of Visual Arts, located in New York City and earned a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts.

W: What are some of your artistic influences? 

S: During my artistic journey, I have been inspired by various senior artists. A few of my current artistic influences are Siji Krishnan who is an Indian artist and who’s work is depicted through a limited color palette, which is similar to mine. She makes sure of the human figure and depicts them in empty spaces and makes use of layering as a concept to showcase her imagery. Mark Tansey is an American painter who makes use of a monochromatic color palette, which is similar to mine. I took inspiration from his color palette and strived to navigate and use limited colors in my paintings to explore a narrative. 

Shwetlana Mehta, The White Series, 2023,  16” x 20”, oil on Canvas


W: When you choose colors for your paintings, is it an intuitive process? Or do you pick out specific colors? 

S: I would say it’s an interplay between both. I do have a specific color palette in mind before I begin the process of painting a particular piece, but more often art can be an intuitive process and colors can change during the various stages of creating a painting. I find myself going with the flow during these various stages and letting the painting take its shape. I believe that colors can play a vital role and my selection of a particular color palette differs from painting to painting.

W: Talk about the technique of painting and what brushes and mediums you use and how you prepare the surface of your canvasses. 

S: I like to explore and work on various surfaces but mostly gravitate towards wood or canvas. I find myself prepping these surfaces with good quality gesso and making sure the surface lends itself as a good base for the painting. In terms of materials I mostly work with oils, I began working with this medium a couple years ago and find that it best suits my needs and works well for me. 

Shwetlana Mehta, Untitled, , 2023, 10” x 11”, oil on wood


Shwetlana Mehta, Possession (1981), 2023, Oil on Canvas, 16” x 24”

W: Your work is mysterious and shows feet or arms without full bodies in some paintings. What is the reason for this kind of focus on limbs? 

S: I desired to depict fragmented parts of the feet or arms as I strongly gravitated towards that part of the body in order to portray the themes of death and decay. These themes were explored in a series of oil paintings completed during 2023, called “The White Series”. One of my initial pieces focused on an enhanced version of a pair of feet. I began to notice that the pattern of imagery worked well, therefore I began the process of repetition and decided to make a series that focused on enhanced versions of fragmented parts of the human form.

Shwetlana Mehta, The White Series, 2023, 16” x 20”, oil on Canvas

W: Your paintings have an autobiographical quality. Is the self portrait aspect, either literal or suggested important to you? 

S: My recent body of work has had a suggestive quality to it, the lack of facial features and concentration on fragmented body parts are meant to be interpreted differently by each viewer. The commonality of an autobiographical quality stays the same while inviting the viewer to decipher each piece and interpret it in their own way.

W: What is it like trying to pursue a career as an artist in 2024? Do you find it challenging? What advice would you give people? 

S: In my opinion, pursing a career as an artist in 2024 can be quite bittersweet. I graduated from art school during summer of 2023 and have been navigating my way as an independent visual artist. The journey so far has definitely taught me how the real world functions and how challenging yet rewarding this field can be. The advice I would give to those who want to pursue a career as an artist, is that you have to keep pursuing your practice and be very open to learning from those around you. I believe that you should also enjoy the process while navigating your way as an artist. 

W: Do you make studies for paintings? How much of your process is intuitive or planned out? 

S: I often begin the process for paintings through making a detailed written plan of how I envision a piece to look like. I then take or collect references that would support my ideas and would be a lending hand in portraying certain imagery. Furthermore, I often think about the color palette and materials I could use for my paintings. Almost all of my pieces are planned out.

W: What do you have coming up, or wanting to accomplish in 2024?

S: I am currently working towards a new body of work that would be a loose extension of certain themes I explored from the past year. A few of my works for the new year of 2024 would be based on the themes of unrecallable memories, psychological and dream-like spaces. WM 



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