More than a century ago, abstraction entered the realm of art. Since then, it has become ingrained in contemporary visuality. Vasu Tolia’s work offers a window into what inspires today’s artists to continue experimenting with abstract language.
The answer lies in the infinite variability of abstraction, which gives space to all sorts of cogitations and reflections. It also denies any objective criteria for evaluation, forcing individual, subjective reactions. This unpredictability of responses and openness of interpretations is what attracts Vasu to her artistic practice.
Vasu engages with various materials, from acrylic paints to charcoal and markers. This fluidity and variability are the core of her artistic style, which results in the diversity of rendering the works. Some of her pieces incline more towards geometric clearness, while the others embrace a more freehand approach. But in both cases, there is a tactile experience behind the working process, as Vasu builds the layers of the painting surface with gels and pastes and modifies them by scraping, scratching and dripping. The final result is always impromptu. Thus, each canvas is a diary of a process, bearing the marks of the performative gestures.
When talking about painting, we perceive it through its material qualities—composition, colours, rhythm, format. However, such an immaterial aspect as the title is also an important part of the entity of the piece. Different artists approach it in different ways. For instance, famous masters of abstraction, like Kandisnky or Rothko, preferred avoiding any particular associations: the titles of their compositions either referred to musical forms, directly described shades or simply numbered them.
Vasu invests her works with emotional and spiritual connotations—Burning Questions, Spaces of Our Minds. There is probably a therapeutic aspect to the naming process as she explores her own milieu through her pieces. Abstraction here becomes rather an allegory of ephemeral personal sensations, which can resonate with those of the viewer. An art historian, Meyer Shapiro wrote about this connection: “The most responsive spectator is then the individual who is similarly concerned with himself and who finds in such pictures not only the counterpart of his own tension, but a final discharge of obsessing feelings.”
Vasu Tolia is a Michigan-based painter and poet. She dedicated thirty-five successful years to a career in Academic Pediatric Gastroenterology. Following retirement from the medical profession, she embraced her other lifelong passions: art and literature. She has been actively exhibiting since 2015. Her painting has recently won the Camelback Gallery’s 6th annual Abstracts with Red 2023 Juried Art Competition. Vasu’s canvas The World United was featured among the top 20 selected by The Washington Post in a national call for the art created in the first months of the pandemic.
Her works are part of Baker College, Royal Oak, MI, as well as in Henry Ford Hospital, Macomb, MI collections and private ones.
Vasu Tolia is the Bronze Artist of the ArtAscent Abstract call for artists. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Abstract issue.