Rajiv is an abstract expressionist artist who lives in the San Francisco area.  His work www.rajivkhilnaniart.com is bold and colorful, yet also very architectural and appealingly constructive.  What inspires him?  Check out our cool chat and find out …

MICHAEL: Hey Rajiv, I love abstract expressionism and your work is very cool, hip and modern. Are you channeling "cool, hip and modern" while you're painting? LOL.

RAJIV: First of all thank you Michael for the opportunity to interview me. Now to your question, I am quite sure I am not consciously aiming for a “cool, hip and modern” look in my works. I just paint because I am addicted to it. It prevents me from the stress of thinking. My painting process comes more from the heart i.e. I am an impulsive painter and my inspiration comes from abstract forms in nature. How that heart and impulse bit translates into a modern/edgy look in my works I don’t know.

MICHAEL: I do see some architecture in your work which lends itself to intellect and construct of some sort. Is your work all heart and impulse?

RAJIV: Very interesting observation Michael! About ten years ago, I started my abstract period, before that, I use to paint semi-abstract works which had architectural motifs in them. Maybe sub-consciously I still get influenced by my old style from time to time. The fact that I name some of my works along the architectural lines also creates the impression that I am making a conscious effort to paint structures. But the truth is that my current painting style is all heart and impulse.

MICHAEL: Are you a trained artist? The "all heart and impulse" thing implies you are not. Do you have artistic influences or do you mainly follow your own inspiration?

RAJIV: If by “trained artist,” you mean going to an art school, then you are correct, I am not. However, I went through a two-, part-time mentorship program for which I received a certificate of completion. The second part of this question is a bit tricky for me to answer. I feel all artists get influenced by their contemporaries and/or their predecessors, so I am no different. However, as far as I am concerned, I never got influenced to the extent that I wanted to copy somebody or have people associate my works with one of the established artists. From the very beginning of my artistic journey, I believed in creating my own style and as a result, I followed my own inspiration.

MICHAEL: You're an events and marketing professional? What do you do exactly? Does this relate at all to your art or do you try to keep your career and your art separate?

RAJIV: I organize big and small events like holiday parties, workshops and symposiums for my employer and create promotional materials from time to time to promote some of the events. I do tend to keep my current career and art separate with the hope that someday soon art will become my career.

MICHAEL: When did you first become aware of yourself as an artist? Do you come from an artistic family? What's your first memory of being engaged with art?

RAJIV: I would say in the mid 1990s. My older brother was heavily involved in art in high school, but never continued and I know that my father always appreciated art. I have been told that some of my maternal and paternal aunts did art seriously, so maybe I did inherit some artistic genes. In school I always looked forward to my once a week art class, but it was not until I finished high school that I got serious about drawing and painting. Just after finishing high school, I enrolled in a community art class and since then have never looked back.

MICHAEL: Your paintings also seem to be an exploration of color and geometry and how things can go together. It's almost as if they could be abstract representations of the events you organize. Relations, compositions and the threads that run through things, No?

RAJIV: So true! I have always been a colorist at heart and have tried to create works with all of the colors in the color palate (ironically though, my black and white works have gotten me the highest recognition). For me, just splashing colors on a painting surface just does not cut it. I feel I need to give more to the viewers-some kind of puzzle to solve, or a figure or a landscape to discover- which I think, I can do best by incorporating geometric shapes. It is possible that people have discovered “holiday party” or “medical conference” scenes in my works.

MICHAEL: So many people out there have no relationship - that they're aware of - with art. So what's the point of it all?

RAJIV: While I don’t expect everybody to have a relationship with art, I also find it very unfortunate that not enough is done to try to create a relationship. Having said that, I also believe that artists create not necessarily to relate to the masses, but to satisfy their inner calling, the end result of which is a product worth sharing with the world. Personally speaking, I don’t need five hundred people to connect to my works to feel happy about what I have created, even if one person looks at my work for a few minutes and asks me questions, it gives me immense satisfaction and a reason to go on. So the point of it all is to prevent artists from going crazy! LOL!

MICHAEL: Are you a San Francisco native? I've been there once and totally love that city. Tell me about your relationship with it. Does the city inspire your work?

RAJIV: I am not a San Francisco native and neither do I live in the city. However, I do live close enough to the city to visit it at least once or twice a week mainly with the intention of visiting an exhibition, networking, or some other form of creative arts event. I don't blame you for falling in love with San Francisco as it has so much to offer at all levels and encourages you to make a second trip soon as you are missing out on a lot of things the city has to offer. On the inspiration part, I think it would be safe for me to say that the whole state of California inspires me as it has so much natural beauty and some immensely talented artists. Since San Francisco is the hub of creative and cultural diversity in Northern California, it sure has an influence in my works and I have even titled some of my works after the city.

MICHAEL: What do you think about the art world and art market and how they function today? The super-wealthy are buying the works of dead, famous artists, but many talented, living artists are struggling.

RAJIV: At many levels, it is very disappointing to see that millions of dollars are spent on the works of dead artists while living artists are told by almost everybody that they cannot possibly make a living being a full-time artist. From my personal knowledge, this kind of feedback has resulted in some of my extremely talented friends quitting art and taking full-time jobs. Treating art as business does help to preserve quality art works, but at the same time if private collectors and the corporate world could support living artists by providing them financial incentives like art show sponsorships, multi-year scholarships, no cost grants, exhibiting opportunities on their properties etc., then living artists would not struggle as much. In this new age of technology, more and more people are forgetting the value of original art and of the living artists and artisans who create them.

MICHAEL: Finally Rajiv, Does your body of work thus far have a message? What is it and why should people care about art anyway?

RAJIV: My current works are not intended to convey any particular message. From time to time, I hear people commenting about the rich diversity of colors in my works and how it reflects my cultural background, but that is not intentional. Now days, I simply paint for the pleasure of painting and experimenting with different shapes, forms and textures. As for why people should care about art; art makes life interesting, provides options and adds beauty to our environment. Art is not just about paintings; advertising, event setup and merchandising are some of the areas where art is used to make products and services look appealing. In other words, art is equally important for appreciators and non-appreciators of art, the difference being that appreciators are conscious about it while the rest are not.

MICHAEL: Rajiv, you have a great spirit, I love your work and wish you the best. Great chat.

RAJIV: Thank you for taking the time to interview me. I greatly enjoyed our chat. Hope to meet you in person some day.

Check out Rajiv and his cool paintings at www.rajivkhilnaniart.com.