In Conversation With: Mohamed Salman

Salman is an artist living and working in Madras, India. Known primarily for his abstract and technical paintings, he is entirely self-taught. His mixed media work often explores the nature of symmetry, the tension between technique and spontaneity, and intricate constraints.

Emerald Arguelles: Can you discuss your introduction into the arts?

Mohamed Salman: When I was young, I read somewhere that “painters are the original storytellers.” If you look back in time, right from the beginnings of recorded art, the narrative was always graphical. This idea somehow stuck with me. 

Growing up, I was inspired by aesthetically pleasing designs and vibrant colors, so organically I found abstraction to be the best form of expression for me. 

What started off as doodling on the corner of textbooks has evolved onto canvases. I get a great sense of satisfaction when I build things by hand. Likewise, with art, building layer by layer, giving it the time and patience it deserves, admiring the work at the end is a feeling I cannot fully express. 

My main emphasis has always been the chance to create, which I find is extremely rewarding. I guess that’s why I chose this way of communicating/connecting with the world.

EA: What led you to use painting to convey your perspectives?

MS: I’m a self-taught, abstract artist who works with both free form and hard-edge abstraction. I live to create art, and I consider every canvas as a fresh start, so it’s always exciting to see where it leads. 

Being an Abstract Expressionist, I create compositions of images and responses to mimic the world we live in and the thoughts we share, to communicate both on an emotional and personal level. 

EA: How has your upbringing/environment influenced your work?

MS: I grew up in Madras (now called Chennai) in South India. I was born and raised here as a Second Generation engineer in a conservative family, and I was taught old-school values with a modern mindset. That upbringing has had an influential impact on my life and work. 

Much like Madras, with its multiculturalism, historic landmarks, South Indian filtered coffee, friendly people, perennial sunny weather, the second largest beach in the world—I’m an amalgamation of it all. I often explore the city and other parts of the country to find inspiration. 

I also extensively travel internationally meeting art collectors and exploring, so you can see hints of those influences.

EA: Who or what are your inspirations?

MS: Generally, creative thinking has always been my strong suite. It’s hard not to be inspired in this day and age; we are surrounded by so many creatives and all kinds of art forms. As a planet, right now I think we are at our creative best. However, I cannot go without mentioning some of the artists I admire from the past like Rothko, Mondrian, and Raza.

I work on what I call intuitive and technical paintings. My inspiration for art varies in extremity. Ideas for technical paintings are often planned, researched, and then developed in the studio, whereas with intuitive paintings, I draw inspiration from within: my moods, emotions, and thoughts can influence my work deeply.

EA: Can you discuss the purpose/intentions of your series titles?

MS: My series titles are named after the artistic processes I follow. Flow leans towards intuitive abstraction, Balance towards technical paintings, and Momentum is a hybrid of both in my view. 

As I said, I spend a lot of time on research for technical paintings. As I progress with the painting, I’m constantly faced with several directions that I can take, but I give myself constraints to follow through on the original idea. It is a constant struggle to not be intuitive and free form on a technical painting, be it hard-edge abstraction or pointillism, for example.

With intuitive paintings, I start with a few colors and cover the entire canvas, then I take a step back to study the work. At this point in time, I’m completely closed off from external influences and in tune with my intuition. Soundscape music often helps with this. I let it guide me and see where it takes me. At times, when I’m in this zone, I switch between hands instinctively, as I’m ambidextrous. I then let the painting ruminate for a few days before I start adding several layers until it brings self-satisfaction.

EA: Can you discuss the process of creating Crystalline Knowledge of You?

MS: Crystalline Knowledge of You is a hybrid of abstract expressionism and geometric abstraction. If you look closely, you will notice geometric forms of triangles forming a pattern or a framework, so to speak, which is completely overlaid and compromised by free form, an emotional abstraction that looks like it is captured in time by resin. Honestly, images don’t capture how surreal this painting is; one has to experience it in person. 

As time passes and we face hard times, we often doubt ourselves. Even though we are structurally built to make decisions in our minds, at heart we are often in conflict, and it can become challenging to believe the truth. This painting is a reminder to look within ourselves, listen to our intuition, and trust that instinct. 

EA: What would you like viewers to know about your work?

EA: It’s loud as well as calm, it’s vibrant as well as matte, like a song. I hope my art helps people find themselves through the evocation of various feelings: affirmation, wonderment, confrontation, to name a few. I want my paintings to act as a reflection of thoughts and emotions about where we are and where we need to be. Finally, I hope the paintings leave people with a sense of restored hope, faith, and positivity.

To view more of Mohamed Salman’s work please visit their website.