We've just come out with 2 new puzzles with Vikram Madan's cheery but deep artwork, and asked him to tell us more about it.
AP: One of our new puzzles is your painting, the Physical Impossibility of Sadness in the Mind of the Beloved, featuring a creature eating contentedly eating cereal with a wall full of memories of adventures with his buddy. Where's that title coming from?
Vikram: The title is a satire on an infamous art installation by artist Damien Hirst featuring a stuffed shark in a tank of formaldehyde that sold for $12 million dollars. Hirst’s piece is titled ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’. When I was making this particular painting featuring themes of adventure, curiosity, friendship, and essentially a live well-lived life of companionship, my version of the title just popped into my head one day and it seemed so right that I just ran with it.
Vikram: The ‘Robot & Monster’ friends featured in the painting started life as a couple of disparate sketches in my sketchbook, but when they ended up together on the same page, they seemed like a classic ‘odd-couple’ - the mechanical, logical robot and the fuzzy, organic monster – begging to be painted. The more I sketched out possibilities for a narrative painting, the more stumped I became on how to pick one particular vignette over the others... until I had an epiphany that why not paint them all as a way to tell a larger story beyond the vignettes. I leave it to the viewer to imagine what happened to the Robot. Did the Robot just step out of the frame for a moment? Or are we celebrating a more bittersweet moment?
AP: Did you have a buddy once for great adventures?
Vikram: I grew up reading a lot of classic ‘golden age’ science fiction and, as a kid, I really, really always wanted to have a robot as a buddy for my adventures. Now, through this painting, I do. :)
AP: Our other new puzzle of your art is Forecast Says Rain (pictured above), which is full of little guys engaged in various fun outdoor activities. Why's it called that?
Vikram: ‘Forecast Says Rain’ is about being human and living life in a way that is true to being human. Ever since I was a kid, the newspapers have always been full of gloom’n’doom – that there are always clouds on the horizon, that, metaphorically speaking, the ‘forecast says rain’. But as french poet Paul Valery wrote, “The wind is rising, let us try to live”. And that’s what this painting is about: about not letting the forecast deter us from making the best of the times we have. Sometimes though, this requires putting some blinders on – which is the reason why all the characters in the painting have their eyes closed. Except for the owl. Why the owl? Well, in western culture the owl is considered a wise bird. But in eastern culture, the owl is considered a foolish bird. So I leave it to the viewer to decide if keeping those eyes open is a wise act or a foolish one. And that cautiously optimistic character in the middle with the umbrella? That’s me. :)
AP: What's up with the Abe Lincoln look-alikes in Forecast Says Rain?
Vikram: Partly I was giving a nod to history and partly to our human quality of engaging in role-play, dress-up and community built up on a common interest. But the seed came from a zombie series I was watching where the main characters run into a bus full of Abe-Lincoln look-alike zombies (returning from a convention). I thought that was really wacky, and worth giving a nod to...
AP: What's the deep symbolism behind your use of submarines?
Vikram: As an introvert and private person, I tend to not reveal myself too fully to people and situations until I am sure it’s ‘safe’ to emerge and show my vulnerabilities. The periscope is representative of all the times we lurk beneath a surface waiting for an ‘all-clear’ signal...
AP: Love your rich, saturated color palette. Why don't more artists go-in for great colors like that? How did you converge on your current favorite color palette?
Vikram: Color choice is both personal and dependent on technique, and I think all artists find their way to a palette that feels congruent to themselves. As a kid growing up in India, I have distinct memories of being surrounded by rich saturated colors everywhere. I believe these colors from my childhood have worked their way into my palette. I work straight out of the tube ‘alla prima’ (i.e. direct painting, not built up layers) and so my colors tend to be on the purer, unmixed side.
AP: Do you feel "free" now that you left your dayjob to be an artist, or are we all just slaves to the Man?
Vikram: All artists are slave to ‘art’ – as in, it is a compulsion we must feed, like hunger. As Camille Paglia once said, “The artist creates, not to save the world, but to save themselves.” I’ve discovered artists do need to focus on the business side of art too, as selling art creates the capacity to continue making more art sustainably. Since I quit my day job a few years ago, I find myself running a startup where the primary product is art. The product, however, still needs to be packaged, marketed, distributed, put in front of customers, with associated overhead of inventory management, accounting, events, promotion, lead generation, chasing opportunities, etc. – and as any small business owner knows, in the beginning you have to wear all these hats yourself. So I often find I am spending 80% of my time not creating art, and only 20% of my time in the studio making art. However having the freedom to make your own mistakes, with no one to blame except yourself, remains very liberating. :)
AP: Do you know where I can get adorable blank penguin cards with the penguin from our Birds of a Feather puzzle?
Vikram: Right here on my etsy page!