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Anjali Shankar
Self-Portrait

College Student
USA

@anjalishankar_art

Clara Lieu, RISD Adjunct Professor

Clara Lieu
Art Prof & Partner

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Partial Video Transcript

Anjali: “My name is Anjali. I’m an art student studying painting at MICA. These paintings came out of an oil painting class. The assignment was to depict the internal self and the external self. These are both oil paintings, when I did them, I didn’t have a whole lot of experience in oil, so I just used the oil paint straight from the tube.

Now with more experience through school, I know that I need to use mediums, different techniques, different mark making and I think this is really representative of my growth as a blooming student. I think I was inspired by some works by James Jean, and some other baroque paintings.

When I was little, I lived in indonesia. We had this really beautiful koi pond in our backyard and I would love to run around there and just look at the fish. There’s this one huge fish we had named Jumbo, he was like huge. I always loved having my dad go in there and catch him and he’d always like wrestle with it. When I was little, that’s how big the fish was to me. That’s who I was.

Indian girls are seen as a lower level then Indian men. Even I would go to these family weddings, there’d be all these relatives and they would all surround my brother. They would say ‘oh hi how are you’ and then go straight to my brother and ask him, ‘how was school doing? how is your life? where do you think you’re going to go to school?’ They did not care about me or what I had to say. I would just mind my own business, they weren’t interested in me at all because I was a girl”

Prof Lieu: “I really liked that in these two paintings, there’s a very dramatic contrast between the two figures, the internal and external selves. They could not be more different from each other. Not just in terms of the actual narrative that’s happening, like the gestures that the figures are taking on, but I also think stylistically, the way you painted them is actually quite different.

When I look at the koi fish, that piece has this really intense, highly saturated orange and red that’s in the fish and so that alone seems much more dramatic, a lot more gestural, and full of movement. But also the way that your face is like tilted backwards very dramatically. There’s that highlight that’s coming across the face, that alone I think has just a lot of action to it.

The figure on the left hand side though, she’s so stiff by comparison. I mean she almost feels to me almost more like a statue than a person. Which I think is so appropriate for what we’ve described. I just noticed this and I’ve been looking at these pieces for a while. You are wearing a fish necklace in the painting on the left so what’s the significance of that? “

Anjali: “What it was, was mostly to tie these two in together. That summer, my friend had given me a fish necklace which I loved because it was kind of moved like this. I was like hey this should be in the painting because in the other painting there’s a fish. I just feel like it was a good connection as wearing it around your neck and then holding it in your hands. “

Prof Lieu: “ It’s not a real fish, it’s an actual designed piece of jewelry on the right hand side panel, the fish is just gigantic troll beast. That little fish necklace that you have is very important as far as really connecting the two together.”

Anjali: “I really think it like starts the dialogue between the two paintings.”

Prof Lieu: “There’s some parts of the painting that I think are really accomplished and seem very rich and very vibrant. That dramatic light that’s on the face looks so luminous and bright, I really respond to that. The only thing is though, towards the bottom of both paintings, like this area down here to me looks totally unfinished. Did you want it to look incomplete or did you really never come back?”

Anjali: “I really tried hard to figure out what was necessary in the piece versus what was unnecessary. I really feel like for both pieces, the face and the hands were both necessary and essential to making this piece work.”

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