Now Featuring Ajit Chauhan

Semantic saturation is the term for the point at which a repeated word loses its familiarity and turns in to a surprising, alien sound.  San Francisco artist Ajit Chauhan examines objects and processes with such thoroughness that a similar visual saturation gradually gives way to seeing anew. In Chauhan’s work, reiteration appears to spring out of pattern, but reveals itself as a process of understanding and study. Little Paper Planes is pleased to present an exclusive series of prints by Chauhan. Barf: “They’ve gone to plaid!” includes 70 unique prints of plaids designed by the artist.

To view all 70 Plaids: Go Here!

Exclusive print series, unique print

Exclusive print series, unique print

Exclusive print series, unique print

Exclusive print series, unique print

Exclusive print series, unique print

Exclusive print series, unique print

Exclusive print series, unique print

MH: Can you talk about the plaids project?  It seems like so much of your work over the years is about modes of reproduction; whether by hand, by reiteration, by translation from object to image. The plaids seem to fit on this continuum by being a sort of grid, something that can be repeated infinitely, but a grid that has a heavily decorative, functional and cultural significance.

AC: It started with plaid shirts and as with choices sooner or later you start to consider preference. Basically they’re a design of stripes crossing over other stripes at right angles. So I agree they fit in this continuum by being a sort of grid. But I also believe plaids are somewhere between drawing, knitting, & writing. I made a piece called ‘Last Address’ which was a reduced plaid, at least as I saw it. It was binary so really the only interesting section was where the lines intersected. Should they alternate? Like a woven pattern, over & under like a textile? It made me think of line as thread & how to create & hold form together with it. That decorative outcome is a result of adding to that simple relationship–how lines will react when they cross each other.

MH: How do you make all the plaids?  I played with the tools on and loved putting things in new ways, but the history of plaids starts way before the history of pixels.  How much are you basing on existing textiles and how much are you creating from scratch?

AC: I’m attracted to all types of templates, when there is something generic trying to be specific and the distortion between the two. I like when algorithms or formulas don’t add up and it creates a type of dyslexia. On Netflix I watched Ayn Rand: In Her Own Words and from their strange algorithm the film Summer Lover was suggested for me. So I used the synopsis for that film for the ‘About Me’ section of my Google+ profile. It’s like a thread that’s fun to go with. Or my website it had those generic templates to choose from, a Picasa rotating photo album with the tagline “Photographs from the West of Ireland to treasure forever.” Imagine if those images were from the West of Ireland and they were meant to treasure forever? So plaidmaker was kismet. I created the plaids there. It provides the template to control your own colors, number of lines, spacing, twill etc. I’d go on in the mornings when I checked my mail and would make one or two patterns every day. It’s easy to use, to treat each with neither significance or connotation creates a surface reality. I mean just detail, flat.

MH: Your use of record sleeves and covers strikes a chord for me… It reminds me of writing in books, on how it’s both a careless act and also something voracious readers do annotate and personalize their library.  What’s your relationship to records as material?

AC: Records as registered material? Or records as in a long playing phonograph record? I like the double meaning. Well I’ve been working with records for a few years. I like its uniformity, twelve inches by twelve inches. The size is consistent. Consistency can be forgiving. It’s also one less arbitrary decision to deal with. The parameters are a given, so you can just concentrate on the variations within that. The press release for a group show I was included in said “the propagation of delicacy as subversive activity.” That one sentence sums up my ideals and intentions with the record pieces.

MH: I really like how you talk about plaids in terms of process, and describe your leap from Ayn Rand to Summer Lover to Google+ profile. What are some other procedural things you consider, and how do you approach them?

AC: There’s a Robert Bresson quote I’ve always liked, “The supernatural is only the real rendered more precise, real things seen close up.” That always resonated with me because subconsciously I always felt it to be true. My approach has always been to start with detail. I remember taking a still life painting class and the concept of blocking in was utterly lost on me. It usually starts with something very specific. I don’t approach things with broad messages to communicate; that’s not where my interests are and I probably wouldn’t trust them anyway. My friend Kevin Killian and I did a show (Don’t Be Upset — I’m Only Crying in English, at Sight School) based on the writings of Elizabeth Bishop. I remember Kevin saying her writing “was like walking on Carrara marble doused with corn oil” meaning she was difficult to pigeon-hole, and I agree her writing is like precise mystery. While you are reading it everything crystallizes and it’s so clear but as soon as you finish it dissipates like cotton candy. But Kevin’s sentence about Carrara marble and corn oil and the fact that her writing often deals with finishes and surfaces led me to the material gold foil and silver and copper leafing. It came from the insight of that single sentence.

MH: Can you talk about the process of doubling in your work?  It seems to come up in your series of related paintings and sculptures (themselves depicting objects of reproduction: camera, videotape) as well as in the way plaids require a doubled axis, and x and a y, to form their grids.

AC: That’s an interesting observation and something I hadn’t considered. I think it has to do with projections and a kind of general distrust of reality. Fred Sandback said “Illusions are real and reality is allusive” and I couldn’t agree more. But it’s also just my love of film. Film occupies a space in my life that is really difficult to articulate. It’s empty frames, it’s a place of loneliness, it’s dreams, it’s longings, it’s connecting to an intimate dialogue with yourself, it’s synchronizing with the world, it’s so many things who can really say what film is…but for me it’s probably become a fetish at this point. I enjoy looking at cameras and listening to projectors. It’s a kind of perversion–not making films so those energies get channeled in this direction. Actually the culmination of this was a piece that’s title was sexualized movie titles, “A Mid Summer Night’s Cream, Peter Pansexual, The Man Chewing Me Candidate, Saving Ryan’s Privates” etc. I asked my friends for contributions & would receive these text messages at all times and places of the day “Clitty Slickers” “Schindler’s Fist” “Leathering Heights”…

MH: What are you thinking about for upcoming projects… what kinds of things are prompting you, and what threads are you following?

AC: I try not to expand on what I consider to be personal insight (common sense!). Insight is tricky. It’s a loaded situation. If you try to be self serving it can end up being dis-serving. I think of it more as a dialogue. It’s not relinquishing the decision making process; it’s more about trying to be clear about the circumstances or the promptings. What are those promptings? I was just finishing some foil pieces for Frieze that started on wooden surfaces, old table tops. I tried to follow the prompting of the grain and scratch marks on the surface, to use that recorded or registered history to dictate the pattern I would follow. I mean why project an arbitrary pattern when it already has an inherent one that just needs some highlighting?

Larry Rinder is putting together a two person show with Colter Jacobsen and myself which feels very much like a dialogue. It will be a show of Colter’s collaged plaid shirts & my erased album covers, shirt sleeves and record sleeves. Colter collaged an erased LP pattern (that Larry gifted him for his birthday) into a plaid shirt (that Colter gifted me as a card) and to add to the folds it will be at our friends gallery SVIT in Prague. At the end of the year I’ll be having a show at Annarumma Gallery in Naples. I love their football club Napoli, so perhaps some promptings or themes will develop from that, I don’t know at the moment.

MH: What does a day in studio look like for you?

AC: Natural rhythms change according to timelines or deadlines, but on average I think I have banker’s hours. I wake up early and I end early. I don’t have a physical studio space so I go in and out of things all day. Usually I’ll work on a series pretty intensively and exhaustively. I was talking to Jack about that process of rejecting a previous body of work in order to move on. I also think it’s just a part of being skeptical and playing the devil’s advocate with others and with myself. I prefer the middle, if there’s too much enthusiasm I pull back and if there’s too much disregard I kind of double down.


1 PlaidMakerNo Gravatar { 05.02.12 at 9:27 pm }

I’m the creator of PlaidMaker and it’s very rewarding to see someone use it and take the patterns into the real world.


2 AjitNo Gravatar { 05.04.12 at 3:36 pm }

sean, thank you so much for creating plaidmaker.

3 Hemraj ChauhanNo Gravatar { 05.22.12 at 3:48 pm }

Fantastic! I love it.

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