‘My paintings offer the viewer an open-ended experience,’ says Laila Khan-Furniturewalla, as she talks about her latest series.

After a solo show in Mumbai five years ago, Laila Khan-Furniturewalla is showcasing her latest series of works, “Pulse of Abstraction”, at the Agora Gallery in New York. A collection noted for its beautiful, innovative communication, with each image having its own rhythm and captivating beat, the series has received much praise. Excerpts from an interview:

Women have always formed the core of your works. Does this trend continue in this series too?

Each time I paint, I celebrate the life I love and the beauty I know. My representations often take the form of portraits of women. In my portraits, women’s faces can be seen as symbols of various emotional states. The women in my paintings are full of life yet trapped in a doll-like lifelessness and my paintings vividly depict that sense of conflict. However, my critics feel that my images communicate more than the struggles that I speak of. There is a mystical sensibility operating in them as well; most strongly apparent in my series devoted to Ganesha. I was awed by the power of Ganesha’s image and wanted to represent this deity through my art. The paintings in that series have a spiritual depth and a meditative energy that gives my works a feel similar to that in religious icons. The women that emerge from my canvases explore the mysteries of female beauty, which does not give everything away, reveals yet conceals, charms yet seduces, inspirational yet melancholy.

You seem to be veering more from reds towards gold in recent times. What prompted this change?

I have always used gold but it was more muted because of the predominance of red. I use gold leaf now in a very contemporary way as I love the texture and power that gold exudes. Part of my distinctive colour scheme has its roots in the materials I use.

In my recent work, I have moved from oil paints to acrylics, as well as gold pigment and gold leaf that reflect back at the viewer like mirrors. But as the gold reaches out to you, drips of white and areas of dark colours pull you back in. Just like the women they depict, these paintings conceal and reveal at the same time, offering the viewer an open-ended experience. Also, I do not title my works as I feel titles impose direction, constriction and limitations. The picture itself can speak a thousand words, so what's the need for titles?

Why has there been such a long gap since your last show?

For the last couple of years Farhan (my husband) and I have been busy reinventing our brand ‘Furniturewalla FW’ and set up large showrooms in Mumbai and Delhi. My last solo show was in Mumbai in 2007 and I hope to have one shortly now. I also believe it is very important to have a gap between shows, as that allows the artist to evolve and say something new.

Tell us about the experience of showcasing in an international gallery like Agora, New York?

I received a strong response to my work with immense curiosity around my Ganesha series. There was interest in the contemporary way I use gold leaf. A few other well-known galleries here have shown strong interest in my work too.

What are your views on the global art market as it stands now?

In spite of recession over the west, art sold better in 2011 than at any other time. China is the world leader in fine art auction sales and Chinese artists are among the most sought after artists. In New York people, by and large, prefer abstract works.

What’s on the anvil now? Any chances of venturing into Bollywood?

I’m planning my solo show in Mumbai and Delhi shortly. But, no plans of venturing into Bollywood anytime soon.

Any chance of collaborating with your husband to fuse your art and his business?

Farhan is extremely supportive and encouraging of my work. He has a passion for art and design; so I can depend on his critical appreciation. I’ve showcased my recent series in our Delhi store where I have created a small gallery space. We are also working on expanding ‘Furniturewalla FW’ with a South launch towards the end of this year. Art and interior design have always gone hand in hand so I may fuse my art with his product sometime.