Pictures of Nothing: A Report

What happens when the colors are abstracted? Especially in our virtual reality. Are there any limits to the abstraction of such colors?

To explore these and many other related questions a virtual presentation was organized on July 16 2021 at Shanti Sadan under its 'Understanding Color' workstream.

What is 'Abstraction' and how does one use it as a strategy for self-expression? What role does color, form, concept, and scale play in constructing these images? In his famous lecture series titled 'Pictures of Nothing', late Kirk Varnedoe, an art historian, described abstraction as a symbolic game, energetically propelled by hope and hunger, and something that just doesn’t represent, but wants to “be”. Along with specific examples of abstract works and their use of color and form to evoke a wide range of feelings, the talk explored the creative process behind the abstract video work 'Center of (Varying) Gravity' by the new-media artist Amay Kataria. Khayal Trivedi curated the talk and the presentation.

The participants enjoyed seeing the work of artists Kirk Varnedoe, Jackson Pollok, Donald Judd, Do Ho Suh, Dan Flavin, Jeff Koons, Mark Rothko, Frank Stella, James Turell, Olafur Eliasson, and Anish Kapoor as a picture of nothing.

'Center of (Varying) Gravity' draws from the visual language of fractal patterns to create a generative-meditative simulation of light- the source of all colors. The form of the color is situated in the abstraction of a Fuchsia flower, which blossoms in a multifaceted range of colors like magenta, pink, white, red, and purple. The artwork was conceived during the lockdown in Chicago in 2020 where the liminal beauty of the flower is recontextualized as a symbol of courage and motivation to face the varying uncertainties of the pandemic.

Questions from the participants addressed alternative approaches to understanding color; creating a more flexible virtual color response; and finding ways to evaluate innovations in color. The 'Pictures of nothing' tried to understand color’s upcoming journey to art, market, design, and technology.