Thomas Canavan and Arijit Das had never met before they collaborated with each other to put on the show Paint, Canvas, Walls, People, which is going on right now at the Lamont Bishop Gallery. But sitting down with the pair amid their artwork, which involves embossed canvases and walls, intensely detailed ink work and an overall uninterrupted flow that usually indicates only one artist was involved, it’s pretty hard to tell they’ve only known each other for a few months. And, really, judging from the two artists takes on their experience working together, it would seem they’ve known each other for their entire lives. But they haven’t, which became clear when Das, 37, revealed he’s been living in the same neighborhood and apartment for the last 13 years. “Really?” asked Canavan. “See!” he said laughing. “We know nothing about each other.” Das reacted in a similar way when Canavan, 30, revealed his shameless devotion to all things Real Housewives. “Trash TV!” said Das, who immediately told Canavan to see Tree of Life.. Yup, this was a fun interview:
SCOUT: So, how did you guys meet?
THOMAS: A mutual friend of ours [Brandon Hill] put us together and…. that was it. We just exchanged numbers and met up and that was the beginning of the show. It was just a few months before the show opened.
ARIJIT: Yeah, it was totally random. I ran into [Brandon] on the street one day and he’s like, “I got this show idea.” I’m like, “Alright, cool.”
SCOUT: Was it instant chemistry or were there a few rocky weeks?
ARIJIT: It pretty much clicked instantly. During our first meeting we started throwing out ideas. Like, it wasn’t just parsing out whose pieces would go where, it was about how to collaborate to make new pieces.
SCOUT: Judging from the fact that I can’t tell who did what in the artwork, that is, it all kind of looks as if it were done by one mind, I take it your aesthetics were compatible from the start…
THOMAS: I look at mine in some ways as blank canvases that can absorb whatever, and they’re left intentionally open for that reason so that more elements can be brought to them depending on who’s viewing them or where they are. I think in a similar way, [Arjit’s] are open, as well, to interpretation.
ARIJIT: Yeah. I don’t think either of us have an aesthetic and that’s what brought it together. I don’t feel like [Thomas] does his pieces to have a “look.” It’s all concept and it pulls the viewer in to project themselves on to it, and for these pieces, it’s a complete personal meditation exercise. It’s completely unplanned and not made to look a certain way. It just comes out the way it comes out.
SCOUT: Like a Rorschach test?
ARJIT: It’s an unintended Rorschach test. I don’t make it like that, but that’s what most people end up making it into, you know, “I see this” or “I see that.” So many people ask me not about the pieces, but what they are and I always answer, “It’s ink on paper.” That’s all it is and it’s not anything other than that. Some people get it and others get really frustrated by that response, but I feel Thomas is coming from the same place. A big part of it is having a sense of humor about the whole thing. When I heard about Thomas’s pieces, I think I laughed…
THOMAS: Which is the intended reaction. Let’s not take everything so seriously.
ARIJIT: Except for the scroll, all the lettering and everything [in the exhibition’s artwork] is tongue-in-cheek.
SCOUT: That’s cool. Where do you think that humor comes from?
THOMAS: You mean, are we funny people?
ARIJIT: (laughing) We’re actually not…
THOMAS: I think I’m more entertained by humor than I am a humorist. I think, universally, people are attracted to humor and they like to laugh, and smile. They like to joke and too often I think people are more serious than the need to be of they take themselves too seriously. This is kind of an opportunity for everyone to just relax, and especially in a gallery environment where it can be so stuffy and uptight, to have this contradiction within this setting is fun.
ARIJIT: It’s about the experience of an object interacting with a viewer. If they get a laugh, or start to visualize something, that’s the art.
SCOUT: So, here’s the multi-million dollar Andy Warhol stenciled dollar sign [wOot for art reference!] question, will you guys be working together again?
ARIJIT: I’d love to.
THOMAS: Yeah, that would be lovely.
ARIJIT: It’d be cool to not have a deadline for it.
THOMAS: Two man shows are the sh*t. And that’s the truth.
Paint, Canvas, Walls, People is getting ready to wrap up this weekend with one final blow-out this Saturday at Lamont Bishop. For details and to RSVP, check the exhibition’s Facebook page. In the meantime, for more information on Canavan and Das, visit Canavan’s web project and Das’s website for his design company.