Shreya Soni is an artist with international roots including her birthplace in India, childhood in Bahrain and studies in the United States, Nicaragua, South Africa, Mozambique and Canada. Her experiences in each of these countries have found a place in her artwork. Shreya holds a degree in studio art from the University of Virginia. During her studies there, she was also president of the Arts Student's Society, mobilizing the student body for two showcases spanning performance arts and visual arts. Eleven of her paintings are currently on display at Busboys and Poets Shirlington location in Arlington, Virginia. She also has artwork hanging at Sun & Moon Yoga Studio, Pinnacle Business Centre in Bethesda and Old Town Hall Gallery in Fairfax.
Shreya won the People's Choice Award from the Fairfax Art League three months in a row in 2014 for the paintings: Wake Up Call, Bollywood Sunset, and Clockwork.
In 2008, Shreya was a recipient of the Uphoff scholarship for her series on Shakespeare in Washington D.C., as well as winning Scholastic Gold Portfolio Award and a Congressional Medal.
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May 14, 2014
Series Statement #1 on Futurescape
I create artwork to better understand myself and where we are. The subjects I chose I emphasize our collective role in creation and the construction of our environments. Each painting in this series explores this conflict of change particularly as it relates to my life in a developed country. I juxtapose past and present to remind a viewer of what we have created and are creating together.
Communicating this story through art is important to me because of the many 'black boxes' in my life. My car, my cellphone, my laptop, and my clothes are objects that I spend the majority of my days with. These are created with parts, pieces and processes from around the world. I interact with these objects intimately without completely understanding they work or how their materials were extracted from earth. I see this as a shift from a past which had fewer 'black boxes’ and less reliance on materials from far away, to my present existence with many ‘black boxes’--living in an industrialized, post-modern city. While I take pride in what we have built together, I seek to evaluate what we are creating now and to imagine how that will live tomorrow. My fear is that with the introduction of so many 'black boxes,' objects which also begin to cover our basic necessities for love, shelter and food, we lose confidence as changemakers. I want viewers to feel like changemakers and be aware that the jobs we work in today build the cities we will live in tomorrow.
I explored an example of this conflict in my painting ‘Potted’. There is a potted plant in the foreground of the painting, consuming the majority of space, because I think we are becoming like potted plants. We are animal or plant first; encased later. I can be picked up and moved to different places, but without my ‘black boxes’, symbolized by the pot itself, I am not likely to survive. In gaining the ability to travel across the world I have lost ability to survive in the wilderness and been torn from my roots and potted. The leaves of the plant are meant to merge into the mountains, like our bodies.
The backdrop of the painting is of some mountains I saw flying over Utah. These are contrasted with a wireframe mountain structure in the painting indicative of the computer graphic and virtual worlds where we imagine interaction with nature. In presenting these paradoxes I seek to portray both sides equally beautifully in order to provide a visual from which a viewer may fairly assess for herself what we are creating together as a society. These scenarios present both victories and defeats—my goal is not to present right or wrong, rather to have a viewer feel powerful in the creation of the landscape and take responsibility moving forward.
My paintings investigate what it means to be a painting. I use thick brushstrokes and exaggerated colors to emphasize the nature of painting and the power it presents me in selecting what to bring in focus. Through my facebook page I aim to make painting interactive, relatable and relevant. I post images of paintings in progress to demystify the process of creating a painting and give viewers a portal to influence their outcome. In painting I have often found myself attached to a portion of a draft version, only having to paint over it to actualize the vision. There is beauty in the process; however it is the courage to restart and change that I have found vital to reaching a stage of satisfaction. Allowing viewers to interact with the art in its draft stage is another way in which I seek to empower viewers, reminding them of their individual, as well as our collective ability as changemakers.
Poetry written by Shreya in 1996, during her childhood in Baharain. This poem reflects the same conflicts she expresses in her series 'Futurescape.'
Series statement #2 on Futurescape
Valid for today. Can't give you tomorrow
I was alive another day today so I was able to paint this.
As an artist you hope you have sinned less than the others.
By the nature of the work you do.
Not just subtracting from the sum total of your debts
But also time spent creating
Rather than consuming
Or creating things for another
For ignorance is a sin
Hardly is the other better
Shifting changing moving
This cement was in this century
Our minds are one
You and I and that tree and that deer
And this floor and that sea
Let me tell you if you didn’t know
You are a creator
February 19th, 2014
Interview by Pagevamp
Shreya Soni ( Shreya paints) brings colorful ideas to life while sharing her process with the greater community, making her paintings a full experience rather than a single end product. Read more about her perspective as an artist below, and be sure to take a look at her paintings!
PV: Tell us about Shreya Paints?
SS: I want to use Shreya Paints to make painting interactive, relatable and relevant. I post images of paintings in progress to demystify the process of creating a painting and give viewers a portal to influence their outcome.
I have always believed everyone can paint; it is a process of letting go and persistence. Through Shreya Paints, I aim to have viewers feel the excitement of a new project, and the attachment and loss that occurs in draft works that get painted over.
I believe Facebook is the perfect venue for these real time conversations because the frequency at which my peers use it has created virtual avatars I am able to converse with (I'm using 'avatar' in the notion of James Cameron's movie Avatar, not its actual definition in Hinduism).
Lastly, my work is a reaction to my surroundings. I believe we exist in a unique time and age and I have many questions about both the way this is shaping and my experience of it. Through Shreya Paints, I am trying to trigger attention to the concerns that keep me up at night or celebrations that make our experience rich and fulfilling.
My art is a reaction to you and my surroundings and it would not be complete without having been processed in your mind.
PV: What's your favorite part about painting?
SS: It is exhilarating having an idea and watching it become a concrete and tangible piece for others to interact with.
PV: Any favorite paintings?
SS: 'Art.' 25"x 25" (2008).
Its a painting of me holding a paintbrush on a glass surface with a mirror behind. In it, I tried to capture the artist's perspective. I painted it on glass so that the background could become where ever the painting and you physically are. I'm painting you. You are on my canvas. Look in the mirror (if you could), you become part of the canvas.
It's supposed to feel a little creepy.
PV: How do you decide what to paint?
SS: I find inspiration from looking inside myself and remembering experiences that piqued my curiosity. Once I have identified these, I create a patchwork of them on my canvas and often come to an alternate realization through the process of patching them together. What I especially am in love with is how when I am in the mode of creation, all of my surroundings become potential windows into better understanding. I start to look at the world as if it has been painted and so could be painted.
PV: What do you like to do in your spare time?
SS: Paint! Other than that, hang out with old friends and meet new people and make new friends. I like boating, traveling, and hiking a lot too.
Series statement on 'Study of People in Public Places'
I believe in enjoying the journey, and then looking back on what happens as a result.
I grew interested in the relationships between people and their surroundings when I began to ride the metro and public bus periodically to attend a fellowship on Shakespearean plays in Washington D.C. While traveling, the differences between myself and the other riders, compared to the security and similarity of the settings at the school I left to get there, were intriguing. A desire to paint others who felt unique, either because of their isolation from their surroundings, their introspective expressions, or amusing actions developed. I focused on the relationship of the individuals with their surroundings and the voice of their body language and clothing. Generally, the subject is off, perceiving something else, and almost vulnerable from being unaware of his/her identity as a painting, subject to the judgments of an audience.
Additionally, influenced by the seminars I was attending at the Folger Shakespeare Library, I began to relate the people in public places I painted to Shakespearean characters because of similar facial expressions, or symbolism in their actions. For example, in Iago, you will find a man playing chess by himself at a Starbucks. Iago is a character from Shakespeare’s play Othello who essentially orchestrated the tale, taking actions to pit the characters against each other. The other characters fell into his traps as pawns on a chessboard. In the painting it is only this man and the artwork on the wall that are in color because Iago was the only one who exhibited thought and creativity in Othello.From these exercises of finding Shakespearean references around me, I came to realize that we all have the opportunity to make life as dramatic as the characters in his plays, if only we took the risk, venturing out to get acquainted with people from different social backgrounds than ourselves.
While creating the series, I kept in mind the work of the artist Edward Hopper. I admire the vividness and crispness of the color in Hopper’s paintings. His work also captures people in public places; his most famous piece entitled The Nighthawks explores the loneliness and impersonal nature of modern life by depicting a dearth of connection between four people in an American diner. Hopper’s solitary figures inspired me to try to capture the paradox of isolation amid a throng of people in places like the metro, destined to the same place, yet individually disconnected in a profound way.
I find this social paradigm more relevant in our time because of the penetration and prevalence of high-tech technology, ever more updated to fit with our bodies, and take more space in our minds. In its ability to immediately bring us what we think we want, I believe we lose a factor of spontaneity and opening up ourselves to the abundance of the universe existing at the moment.