b. 1997, UK
Maya Luthra is an abstract artist who uses painting as a tool to navigate her experiences as a woman of colour and explore her interest in colour theory. Her attention to combining, mixing, and blending pre-existing colours is at the forefront of her practice. Her work draws on her experience of being a person of mixed heritage – a mix of races, colours, and identities. Luthra is currently based in London, UK.
Maya Luthra draws on her experience of being a person of mixed heritage with her painting techniques in combining, mixing, and blending pre-existing colours. Luthra achieves subtle tonal shifts in colour through the mixing of Farrow and Ball emulsion paints with cheap acrylic paint, through knowledge of opposite colours and with the use of Spectragel mixing medium. Her recent investigations focus on the considerations of colour, shape, line, and texture.
Having used shapes from self-portraits in the past and explored the use of a circle as a symbol of unity, the shapes in Luthra's recent work reflect her surroundings and respond to the question of belonging. The figurative shapes incorporated in her work are influenced by Pablo Picasso's abstract figures from paintings such as Nude, Green Leaves and Bust (Femme nue, feuille et buste), 1932. The figurative shapes explore Luthra's existence in comparison to those close to her who are white.
The interaction between the figures and shapes within her work provides a commentary on Luthra's position within society: her position as the only person of colour in her university course, friendship groups, and the art world. In addition, the shapes used in her recent digital work are from observation of the rolling hills of the Sussex Downs, where Luthra feels like home, and draw influence from Helen Frankenthaler's abstraction of landscapes in the 1950s and 1960s.
While Luthra's ongoing questioning of belonging underlies all aspects of her practice, her latest investigation is of the aesthetics of nature: how impactful small changes in colour, shape, and form can change the relationship among these factors.
Can you tell us your background and why did you want to become an artist?
I left art school with no intention of becoming an artist, but it just happened. I had a few commission enquiries and was lucky enough to be contacted by an online auction house. I had planned to take a year off of painting, but I'm glad I didn't. It’s been essential to my personal and professional growth, particularly through multiple lockdowns it’s been wonderful to focus.
What kind of media do you work with, and why?
I predominantly use emulsion paints. I used to combine screen printing and painting, but I don’t have access to the studios like I used to due to COVID-19. I would like to get back to it though.
Can you tell us about the paintings you created for the collaboration with the House of Glaze?
The changing colours of spring inspired the works I produced for the House of Glaze. I created the body of work throughout lockdown, as I witnessed the world outside change as my life indoors stayed motionless. I focused on colour in these paintings. Colour theory and the investigations of colour are at the heart of my practice. It was important for me to return to those explorations in these works. Having spent much of this year inside my flat in London, I thought about the Sussex countryside (especially in Blue Pink Downs) when I painted the shapes.
My work has moved into a territory of self-reckoning and self-acceptance: the figure of the female form returning in the smaller works. My painting practice has felt like a safe space to explore my deliberations of home, whether geographically or metaphorically, thinking about my body as my home and learning to make peace with myself in a year where uncertainty has plagued us all.
Who and what influences your work?
I am massively influenced by Barbara Hepworth’s sculptures but also her lesser-known print work. Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner, Jean-François Le Minh. The colours of everyday life influence my work as well. I watch life change around me and take influence often from the shapes and colours of seasons. I also find myself focusing on fashion trend colours – I’m having a real moment with pistachio green!
Maya Luthra's studio.