Paola Jori

There are moments in which our disposition to observe and our sense of perception are so keen that we are easily mistaken or deceived. Sometimes the horizons of a surface crack, upsetting the balance, the proportions of a construction become uncertain, lines and spaces recoil from their logical functions to become elements of a fiction. Nita Tandon’s works transcend all laws, they do not result from any absolute ideas nor do they provide any absolute certainties. They are rather a challenge to reality, seductions triggering inner upheavals that become visible. Therefore total freedom is given to the onlooker: the agility with which the eye glides over the surface should be reflected in the thoughts triggered.
The expressive power of these works stems from a basically illusionary movement. Their construction is mainly based on the relation between simple formal elements and different materials. The artist’s language is sober, basic, solid but at the same time flexible in terms of implications. It is almost provocatively reduced to the essential, but at the same time governed by mastery and moderation.
The main theme of Nita Tandon’s art is analysis of the medium: the versatility of the media she uses helps her to develop new arguments. Meditation and experimentation on this subject in the work situated somewhere between painting and sculpture. The simple forms that jut out from the two-dimensional surface of the wall like a relief are also unmistakably architectural. Several elements coexist in one work: this is the essence of poetical theory, which becomes concrete through artistic procedures, materials and architectural space. Working with great precision but without force the artist defines her pieces by the way she juxtaposes canvas and concrete.
The exact delineation of surfaces reflects the profound knowledge of materials: the artist knows how to select them, how to discover their potential and properties. Canvas and concrete also have an artistic value as they play a key role in the artist’s considerations on which her works are based. Both materials have their specific function; one cannot be taken for the other.
The canvas is used to allude to traditional painting and has two different functions within these well-structured works: one, to provide colour and two, to serve as a boundary. The canvas has a homogeneous texture, asserting its own natural colour, without even the slightest intervention of the painter. The absence of pigments corresponds so well to the monochromatic material background of the pieces that colour and background become intermingled. Tandon’s approach could be seen as “anti-pictorial” because of her “non-interventional” attitude, also up until 1986 her works showed traces of oil painting bordered by thin lines. Later on, the artist began to reflect on pictorial intervention and especially on its relations and partiality. Thus the thin line painted on canvas is but the last gesture of an art that has very little to do with gesture. It is particularly significant that the canvas exists in its own right as something separate from painting. The resulting language is sober, based on the chromatic scale of wall painting on the one hand and on sculptural scansion with clear architectural implications on the other. Various forms are arranged next to each other, united in one body formed by closely related elements. This network of correspondences includes the concrete structures with their sharp contours, their finished, balanced shapes that always interact with the wall. Measured, restrained modulations, the result of a never-ending artistic process, reveal clear reverberations and traces. The concrete is used to construct the material background of the works; Tandon works with great mastery and precision. She knows the working times and conforms to them almost unconditionally. She merely forms works, eliminates unwanted parts, produces textures through the wood of the mould or plastic sheets. After it has rested for twenty-four hours the concrete has set and looks alive, because of a particular brightness or meaningful marks on its surface: it is covered with silvery veins to imitate wood or looks speckled and vibrant. By juxtaposing materials and shapes – which all look alive – a compact, measured and self-contained structure is created. Each element has its own meaning, but is also a meaningful part of the whole structure. The perfection of each structure lies in perfect harmony: anything excessive would alter all relations and correspondences. The resulting architecture is therefore essential and non-functional: it is an architecture connected with dreams, desire and memories.
“Many have come – a little too hastily – to the conclusion that the analysis and the will and efforts to attain precision that our mind requires from our spirit cannot accord with the inborn freshness, the redundance of images, the grace and imagination characterising poetry which makes it recognisable as such from the very first line on. (…) There may be some truth in this. This I doubt, however, it being so simple, it must be of scholastic origin.” Paul Valery’s ideas can heölp us approach Nita Tandon’s works, which seem to reflect rational structures with their detached, almost cold, appearance. The poetic dimension of these works lies in the continuous exchange between the works themselves and the surrounding environment, between construed shapes and real space. Tandon’s geometrical, primary structures, characterised by clear-cut shapes and a high degree of rationality, are better defined by the way they relate to the surrounding architecture. What makes them exceptional is the illusionary perspective, the virtual figures on a concrete surface: everything seems to become alive and transformed on the wall where enchantment can become disenchantment.
The very construction of these surfaces is based on illusion: division, union, decomposition are all essential elements of these works whose meaning is never obvious or univocal.
On the perceptive level: Nita Tandon’s works have a disconcerting effect, triggering ever-changing emotional and sensorial experiences. Some works reveal an obsessive search for a paradox in the union of canvas and concrete, the former striving for heaviness, while the latter aims at the highest lightness: the idea on which the artist’s vision is based fluctuates between different illusions. The surfaces lose their balance in the surrounding space and vice versa: is the work a part of architecture or is rather architecture a part of the work? Ambiguity is averse to certainties, just as Nita Tandon is averse to anything that is fixed – both in perception as well as in interpretation.