SamTheAuthor.com

The Official Website of Author Samuel Odunsi, Jr.

Chamel Raghu (Artist Extraordinaire) – Interview

Chamel Raghu Self-Portrait

Self-Portrait

If you do a simple internet search for Chamel Raghu, you can see that he has been called a number of things by various critics of his work like genius, prodigy, reclusive, lazy, and possibly disabled. I may not be a painter myself, but as a fellow artist in my own right (author), I knew the negative labels bestowed upon him by his critics couldn’t have been said from an artist point of view. And thus my wanting of an interview grew and it grew mainly to seek the truth for myself.

When I first reached out to Mr. Raghu to request an interview with him I didn’t know at first how he was likely to respond. With a sincere effort and complete honesty on my end, he allowed me an interview. I was quite ecstatic to say the least and his demeanor through our online exchanges was very genuine.

With there being, to my knowledge, no images of Mr. Raghu on the internet, I admit I was a bit anxious to meet him in person. But not only is he a genuine in the flesh, he and I clicked immediately from the start. Leading up to my interviewing of him we spoke extensively on many things like our mutual respect for each others crafts (him being a painter, drawer, etc. and myself being an author), our love of the city of Austin, TX, and other things personal.

And there were donuts! Which he kindly purchased for our meet.

But really what must be understood here about Mr. Raghu regardless of what other publications, big and small, have said about him over the years is that he is simply an individual that loves what he does. This fact alone is what makes all artists one in the same regardless of his or her craft.

Before I conclude this introduction, I will speak a little bit here on Mr. Raghu’s latest piece titled, Rebirth of Asia, which I had the pleasure of seeing in person. I took these photos while in Mr. Raghu’s studio and I can say for a fact that it is a large and very beautiful piece of work. This piece has also been classified as the “painting of the century”. Again, without an extensive background as a visual artist myself, let alone a critic, I will not dispute the claim. It is a very beautiful piece of work.

Chamel Raghu's "Rebirth of Asia"

(Click Image To View Full Size)

What follows here is my interview with Chamel Raghu which was conducted in his studio on April 20, 2016. Regardless of what one may do as a creator, there is something for everyone here.

Take heed of his words.

Sam:

After visiting your personal website and seeing your pieces, without really knowing anything about the world of art, I can understand the reasons why you’ve received such praise and massive scrutiny over the years. When did you know that you were as talented as you are at what you do?

Chamel:

(He laughs). That’s flattering. I just know that things came naturally. That I enjoyed drawing and even though I started painting later in life as a teenager. I loved mixing the colors. It just came naturally. I enjoyed it. I don’t know how talented I am (we both laugh). Good or bad. I just knew that I enjoyed it.

Sam:

Exactly. You just do what you’re good at and if it just so happens to get attention, so be it.

Chamel:

Yeah. Positive or negative attention, I guess.

Sam:

Many seem to just focus on your paintings, drawings, and things similar but don’t seem to be aware that you are talented in other areas like poetry and if I’m not mistaken you have written hundreds of poems?

Chamel:

Mmm… it could be thousands.

Sam:

Okay.

Chamel:

But there are only maybe under fifty that I would like to maybe share (he laughs).

Sam:

Okay. But anyway, as an artist, how do you decide on which medium to express your creativity in? Since you do multiple things.

Chamel:

That’s a great question. I think that. Emotion dictates what the expression is. For example, if it’s an emotion about love, maybe it can best be expressed in very specific words and those seem to just come naturally. Really the answer is however it comes out naturally. I can’t really say any other way. There is no contrived… okay now I’m going to write because I’m happy. It’s just the words will come out because I’m happy. You know what I mean?

Sam:

Mmhmm. Mmhmm.

Chamel:

That’s an interesting question. I’ve never thought about that.

Sam:

I have yet to see your latest piece in person, Rebirth of Asia, but what I’ve seen online I can say that it is a very striking piece and I love the colors, the sharpness, your skill was very evident. Were there any specific reasons why you made this one of your latest pieces?

Chamel:

There are specific reasons but mainly it’s because of… style I wanted to express, as well as the historical message is something I wanted to express as well. And I guess the title kind of hints at that. I don’t know. It just so happened to be my driving force in my head for the past, I don’t know, about 2-plus years to finish. It just became this thing where… this beast that I had to just finish. And before I could move on to even a single drawing, or another painting, it was something I felt I had to finish before I could move on. Yeah. I think that’s it. Labor. Needing to finish labor.

Sam:

Mmhmm. Just get the job done.

Chamel:

Get it done. Yeah

(he speaks a little more on the work)

The Dragon in Rebirth of Asia has 49 points which have meant to symbolize the 49 different nations of Asia. Initially drawn in 2010, the painting itself had been physically worked on from 2013 until August 2015. Possibly some of the most hellish moments in my life. I had hoped to capture a “tipping point” in global history; one that reflected economics, philosophy, morality, politics, and even religion.

Sam:

Art, in terms of paintings, sculptures, etc., was an area I knew from a very young age I would never delve into and growing up to this day I’ve had a large number of misconceptions involving art from TV, film, the news, etc. Why do you think there are such large misconceptions when it comes to art? Like how, say, a picture of a trash can is considered a piece of art but a family portrait isn’t considered art. Why do you think that happens?

Chamel:

That’s another very good question. I think that as the visual arts have become abstracted, there became this gulf in the people who are on the avant-garde (side) of art and the common person, and that gulf, I don’t know if it’s widening or coming closer, I just know it does exist and that abstraction if you were to compare it to music would be if you were to maybe (he laughs) take a pot and a pan and throw it up in the air and drop it and say okay that sound is an abstraction but that’s the song I just made, that pot hitting the ground. Well I think the common person would say that doesn’t sound like a song to me. But maybe, in a circle of people, who, magnify and understand the abstract notion of that they would say, “Well that’s a great song to me”.

Sam:

Hmm. Hmm.

Chamel:

I think that kind of thing is what has happened to the visual arts.

Sam:

Okay.

Chamel:

Just a guess.

(He mulls the over the question again briefly)

I think that just like throughout Western history, any history, there are lulls. You have peaks and you have troughs of art, of music, you have the baroque and music kind of faded away for a little bit. I think that maybe, we are in a period where there could be a lull. Hell. Maybe it might even be a peak. Anything. Things I believe are cyclical in the art world. They usually overlap with historical context, affluence, and peace, prosperity. So those could come into play as well. I think.

Sam:

I’ve been reading on and off recently on the fact that a growing number of people consider art to be dead. I don’t know if that’s why you’ve been hearing as well but that seems to be what I’ve been hearing. What do you feel about these type of statements where they say modern art is dead?

Chamel:

So you’re saying that people are saying art is dead as a reflection of the society? Or reflection of the world they live in?

Sam:

More like, you know, whatever people claim to be art that is being praised at a very high level many outsiders claim that that’s not art, it’s trash, which is why they say it’s dead.

Chamel:

Uh huh. I see. I think again it goes to this disconnect between the common person’s concept of art, what they believe growing up, visiting museums, seeing things on TV, like “this is art”, this is a painting by (Vincent) van Gogh, this is a painting by Rembrandt. That disconnect with what they may see in a gallery today, is disconcerting for, I guess, a layperson who does not understand, or does not know about artistic movements in the past hundred years. I think that that has lead to this disconnect.

Sam:

Okay.

Chamel:

And for the people that say, “art is dead”, they may even be the avant-garde saying that art is dead and maybe they’re right. And, I think, to make that kind of a blanket statement, is pretty ludicrous because as long as people can express themselves, I think art is alive.

Sam:

Mmhmm. Mmhmm.

Chamel:

And I guess if people express themselves and it looks completely crappy…

Sam:

(I laugh)

Chamel:

…and it’s deemed dead, then maybe we’re all dead. I don’t know. Maybe we don’t have a statement we don’t want to make. But I sure hope that’s not the case.

Sam:

Pursuing one’s passion, and or craft, in life is something many have achieved and many continually struggle to achieve. What would you say to those who find it hard to succeed in their craft? What could they improve on?

Chamel:

Well, I think everybody would have their own definition of what success is to them, if you’re talking about, okay, financial success in their craft I don’t know that answer because I’ve never sold a painting.

(We both laugh).

But if you’re saying how can an individual feel successful in their craft I think that can only be determined by the individual himself and no critic, no friend, really, because at the end of the day it is self expression and if you’ve haven’t been honest to yourself, expressing yourself, then I think you’ve failed.

Sam:

Mmhmm. Mmhmm.

Chamel:

If you have been honest, then, whether you like (your art) or not I guess it’s your call, but at least, I would personally say you’ve succeeded in being an artist in that sense. You have expressed yourself. To make it one’s lively hood, I don’t know. I do not know.

Sam:

Many successful individuals have always advocated that those looking to be successful should read as many books as they can. Are there any books that you recommend those to read that have had an impact on your life? Way of thinking? Or similar?

Chamel:

I would say one book intellectually and philosophically, that I’ve been a fan of, is the Bhagavad Gita. And that’s spelt G-I-T-A. I guess if you look that up you could find that. But even spiritually to some degree I find solace in it. But the logic behind a lot of it, I’m a big fan of.

Sam:

As a creative person myself, outside criticism can hurt from those who you’ve never even met and many are quick to making judgements on people’s art. How do you stay levelheaded in your career and is it hard for you at times to keep the outside world from interfering with your art?

Chamel:

I think at first it was. Because many times it would be just not based on what I’ve done (he laughs), but based on what I have not done, or had not shown, and that always hurt, at first. Then I just realized, you know, while I’m doing stuff, I’m doing stuff for myself, so, as long as I’m happy with what I produce, or don’t produce, I’m fine. I don’t feel, really, negative.

Sam:

Since we’re all different, what do you recommend creative individuals do so that outside criticism, no matter how harsh, doesn’t interfere with their own crafts?

Chamel:

That’s a good question. I would say that, it’s easy to say, “hey ignore negativity”, but it’s human nature to let it sink in. I don’ know, if negativity is going to get to you one way or another I say shut the world off (he laughs) if you can. But if you cannot, just have confidence in knowing that you’re expressing yourself honestly, and I think at the end of the day, what anybody says, won’t matter.

Sam_Liz_chamel_raghu Sam_Chamel_Raghu_cheers

(Click On A Drawing To View Full Size)

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Leave a Reply

SamTheAuthor.com © 2017 Frontier Theme

Welcome to SamTheAuthor.com, the official website of Samuel Odunsi, Jr.
This website is also home to Samuel’s published books and it is an online magazine that includes Burnt Popcorn film reviews and Soundscape music reviews by Samuel.

Signup for the mailing list below to never miss an update.

Name

Email

Samuel promises to never disclose your information to any outside parties.