Beyond the Black. Soot as a means of expression and reflection
Natarajaa (born 1975) is a visual artist born in Kerala, India, educated in Dubai, U.A.E, and based in Germany. His body of work reflects elementary natural processes and shows us how paintings are born from fire and soot, the material residue of fire. After applying the soot with an oil burner to the image carrier the artist creates geometric structures and shapes such as ellipses, circles, rings, orbits, twisting forms, labyrinths, lines, and patterns in black and white. In addition to overcoming the material, it is above all about shaping of the composition. Along with the smoking and scratching techniques in some works, Natarajaa first blackens the canvas with soot and then exposes it to the rain, which leaves extraordinary, picturesque traces.
Natarajaa’s works are conceived through a confrontation of energies bordering between creation and destruction. Light functions here as a creative and generative as well as a destructive medium at the same time, since the burning of light causes darkness, and darkness breeds new and infinite spaces. The resulting material soot represents a final state of things, it is a symbol of transience and a trace of something ephemeral. Light in Natarajaa’s body of work is essential for the representation of the black color as he paints with the burning of the light. Even though most of his artworks are black, the paintings are about capturing light. Like Pierre Soulages who spent a lifetime exploring the light within the color black, Suraj suggests an equivalence between the color black and the truth of absence and invites the viewer to experience the deepness of a given space.
Natarajaa turns to the ancient techniques of painting with fire and scratching on soot, which, along with pigment painting and stone carving, have a millennium-long history. Soot is a product of incomplete combustion or thermal decomposition of hydrocarbons. To obtain soot, artists used to burn resin in ancient times. Soot is used as an effective structuring filler and is a light and weather-resistant media. The implementation of carbon black contributes to the durability of artwork and increases its resistance to aging under the influence of light.
Another important component in Natarajaa's work is rhythm. Depending on the distance of the oil burner to the image carrier and the manner of its movement, different and unexpected amorphous structures arise. However, the processes of fire and water also have a strong uncontrollable momentum of their own, which means that something unpredictable always manifests itself in Natarajaa’s artworks.
Natarajaa does not see himself as the causal creator of his works, but rather as a medium. What is spectacular about Natarajaa is that he does not encounter his paintings himself, but instead of using brushes and paint or similar tools he burners and gives the responsibility to the natural process such as fire or rain. This creates something unpredictable and unknown, making Suraj Natarajaa's works generative art, in which the works are partially created using an autonomous system. Any non-human algorithm whether mathematical, mechanical, or biological, can describe this system. It can independently determine features of an artwork that would otherwise require decisions made directly by the artist. Astonishing when one and the same process is repeated different compositions arise.