Ashvin’s art is all yellow

Ashvin is a colour blind artist who only sees yellow. His show in The Space, Abu Dhabi accentuates this shortcoming and celebrates it.
Take a Piece of Me by Ashvin. Courtesy Ashvin
Take a Piece of Me by Ashvin. Courtesy Ashvin

Dr Ashwin “Ashvin” Pillai’s Incessant Ramblings of a Yellow Kind – currently exhibiting at The Space – features work based on the colour yellow. That’s because he is colour blind and yellow is the only shade he can truly see.

How do you compensate for your colour blindness within your art? How difficult does it make it to paint?

I see colours differently, so I don’t see it as a difficulty, rather I have made it my strength. In this show, I deliberately narrowed down my palette to the colour yellow, which is the only colour I see as its true colour. I discovered that when you impose restrictions on yourself, you experience a new kind of ­freedom.

What is your primary inspiration when you paint?

My inspiration comes from within. My paintings are usually unplanned. I just hit colour on canvas with a theme in mind and let wanton strokes of the brush find their own course. Then, I finish it up using various techniques. Often these paintings are linked to human emotions, abstract ideations and a need to play hide-and-seek on the canvas.

You have chosen abstraction as a form for your paintings. Are they supposed to represent anything?

It is not about what they represent, it is about what you see in them. I would like to encourage people to have their own perspective. The title of a painting or my explanation of it is only what I see. However, you as a viewer may see something entirely different.

In your professional life, you’re a doctor. How does that influence your art and how do you find time for art with such a busy job?

Like I mentioned before, my art is based on human emotions, so my medical training helps that. I come across many different people in my job and the interaction with them sets me thinking about various aspects of life. As for time, it is always available; it’s just a matter of management.

You’re also a spiritual healer. What does that involve? Do you heal people through art?

I practise Pranic healing, which is an energy-based, non-touch therapy. It involves cleansing the aura and chakras of our body, which in turn helps the body heal itself. Art is a form of therapy, and I am looking to incorporate it into my art workshops soon.

As an artist in Abu Dhabi, how do you find the art scene? What are the opportunities like for an emerging artist?

Abu Dhabi has a wonderful art scene, and with the Louvre and the Guggenheim coming up at Saadiyat Island, it promises also to be an international art hub. Different venues and events are constantly engaging emerging artists in fruitful endeavours and I see a promising future for artists not only in Abu Dhabi but the whole UAE.

Can you take us through some of your works and explain them?

My circular painting Resurrection is the story of rebirth, a reawakening of the soul from the depths of burnt memories and deep despair.

Mindchatter is about the excessive influence of opinions of people that surround you. Often our limitations are a result of those negative vibes and what we perceive as impediments are just in the mind.

Cry of the Ancients represents the lament of our ancestors who are probably ridiculing the current generation for all its follies.

The largest piece, the installation titled Take a Piece of Me, is an opportunity for me to interact with the audience. It is a five-­metre-long painting, installed in a curious manner, laid over a ­table and presented on a roll, and it is being sold by square feet. The buyer can choose his favourite portion from the painting and then I will cut a section out of it with scissors. This is a philosophical exercise and a symbolic study of attachment, detachment, personal priorities versus professional commitments, client servicing, emotional nuances and the material world. It is a satire on how art has become commercial, like a reel of yarn that one can buy in pieces from a wholesaler.

Incessant Ramblings of a Yellow Kind runs until Thursday at The Space, twofour54, Abu Dhabi, 8am to 8pm, Sunday to Thursday. For more information, visit

Published: August 31, 2014 04:00 AM


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