If you look at the recent series of paintings by La Jolla artist Mohan Sundaresan collectively titled “Woven Paintings,” from afar, they seem like regular geometrically-oriented works made with a brush and deep rich colors.
However, if you get real close and examine each carefully, you realize they are actually woven together with undulating painted canvas strips!
Sundaresan, who drips paint on his canvases and then uses his hands and fingers to spread it, makes two separate paintings. Next, he cuts them both up along snake-like lines and weaves them together, much like how a basket is made, to create a “third” painting. But two additional processes are also involved; first, the artist’s intention and inspiration behind each of the two paintings, and then the chance factor of how they will merge and interact.
“Nobody has ever done this before,” touts Sundaresan. “The world famous neuroscientist/psychiatrist Arnold Mandell, who founded the Department of Psychiatry at UCSD School of Medicine, said that my work was, ‘The closest thing to Einstein’s Theory of Random Order that I have ever seen.’ ”
Mandell met and befriended Sundaresan when the painter was a handyman for the downtown La Jolla building where Mandell lives. He calls Sundaresan’s paintings “powerful,” adding, “They induce in me strong feelings, which defy rational analysis.”
A series of Sundaresan’s wovens are on view in the gallery of The Loft night club on the second floor of Price Center East on UC San Diego campus. The show went up on Nov. 1 and will remain on display 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday-Friday, until Dec. 1. The Loft exhibits are curated by Brian Ross, who came up with the name “The Loft” when he worked under Martin Wollesen at ArtPower! Not long ago, The Loft separated from ArtPower! and is now administrated by University Centers, for whom Ross works.
Ross said it was a bit of serendipity that brought Sundaresan to The Loft. “The regular monthly Loft artist who was scheduled, canceled out at the last minute. Steve Medoff, Sundaresan’s agent, heard about it and contacted The Loft and sent us some of his pictures. Kellie Chea, the student in charge of programming the Loft Art Gallery, liked what she saw and invited Sundaresan in,” he explained.
Chea said, “Sundaresan’s technique is something I personally haven’t seen before; anyone who takes a look at his work will be mesmerized by it. There is definitely a vibrant and unique energy that his work projects that fits seamlessly with the vibe at The Loft.”
In addition to the works at The Loft, a painting by Sundaresan, titled “One,” hangs in the Jeff Mitchum Gallery in La Jolla, and one of his woven paintings is at the T-Short Gallery on Columbia Street in Little Italy. He also has plans for a show at The Great Hall at the International House on campus after the first of the year.
Sundaresan said his technique of weaving two paintings together was the result of a frustrating day two years ago. Dismayed, and thinking no one was interested in his work, in a fit of rage he cut up two of his paintings, one horizontally and the other vertically. But instead of throwing the pieces in the trash, he began to weave the horizontal strips together with the vertical strips and ended up creating an entirely new painting.
“That’s just like Sundaresan,” chuckled his agent, Medoff. “He is constantly being creative. He lives and breathes art. Just like a modern day Picasso, every moment of his life is about art and developing new directions and new techniques. That’s why I have stuck with him so long.”
After weaving two paintings together, Sundaresan puts a layer of Clear Coat on the final product, so people can touch his paintings. “I want them to touch them because when they do, it is like they are giving me a blessing,” he said.
Sundaresan sometimes muses that one of the two paintings he weaves represents his good side and the other his bad. The final painting is act of integration. He also speculates that the sphere which appears in many of his woven pieces is a gem that represents the special gem that each and every one of us really are.
For one of his latest pieces Sundaresan switched from canvas to cowhide. Two pieces of painted cowhide, which were made to look like alligator and python skin, were woven together to form a painting which he calls “Charm.” Contemplating it, Sundaresan joked, “Maybe I don’t belong in any regular art gallery, but rather in some exotic galactic zoo!”
Gallery or zoo, through deliberate action or chance factors, Sundaresan seems destined to weave his way to greatness!