Meera Palia (b.1978, London) is a self-taught, abstract expressionist artist based in Margate in Kent, UK. Her paintings are spontaneous, expressive, playful and colourful, embracing the life, energy and unpredictability of the process.How did you get into art?
It only happened later in life, when I turned 30. I had previously worked in social care and community outreach and had just begun a career teaching sociology & philosophy. I always enjoyed having creative hobbies- music, dance etc. but hadn’t picked up a paintbrush since secondary school. I signed up for an informal ‘Introduction to abstract painting’ course at a local adult education because I knew that was the type of art that has always spoken to me and that I craved something free, intuitive and expressive as an escape from a busy head. I fell in love with the process immediately. That era when I first began painting was full of change for me personally too so I think art, from the beginning, has for me been caught up with the idea of change. It has helped me navigate, express, initiate and make sense of life changes. And then a few years ago, after losing my parents, taking a sabbatical from my job, renting a studio and immersing myself fully, art took over completely and has been my main focus ever since.
How would you describe your style? What makes your work special?
I’ve always had a deep appreciation for raw and improvised art forms so I like to say that I am aiming for the painting equivalent of a jazz jam, prioritising the energy, authenticity and process of free mark-making over achieving a polished composition or choreographed act.
I move between more minimalist and maximalist expressions and my work can vary quite a bit but it is always spontaneous, gestural and visceral- full of movement and an outpouring of whatever thoughts and emotions I carry with me at the time.
I am most proud of my work when it retains that raw and open-ended, unfinished quality that embraces uncertainty, imperfections and the energy of the process. The dissonance as well as the harmony. I love the physical, gestural act of painting – when it feels like my hand is freestyle dancing - the vibrance of brushstrokes, scratches, scribbles and flicks of paint. Marks that feel alive and authentic and the surprises that occur when you don’t have a plan and you remain open to change.How do you go about developing your work?
All my work is completely unplanned- I just start, guided by whatever mood I am in and see where it goes, mixing marks and colours as I go along. I’ve never used a sketchbook. It’s pretty chaotic really and I’ll have many pieces on the go at the same time but I love the mayhem, unpredictability and the dialogue that unfolds with the painting in front of me. I work quickly using mostly acrylics and oil pastels and turning the work regularly for new perspectives. It can be a very intense outpouring. A bit of a mysterious zone that I enter. The first marks are always my favourite part – so full of possibilities. Later when the painting evolves I have to be careful to know when to stop. That part is never easy. It feels much easier for me to just keep starting new things than to finish anything. I ‘hide’ work from myself for long periods, returning with fresh eyes to help me see what is needed, if anything, to resolve the chaos to some extent, or for it to at least ‘feel’ complete is some often incomprehensible way! If I feel stuck, I may turn to my scraps of torn up old work and introduce some collage elements to help take things in a different direction. The endless possibilities can sometimes feel overwhelming but it is also quite profoundly liberating and empowering to know that you can continuously reinvent, to be reminded that there can be many outcomes and that ultimately everything is work in progress. Important life lessons, of course!Who or what influences you?
I always paint to music and I think my love for syncopated rhythms and dance is there in the movement of my work. There are no doubt many other less conscious influences on my mark-making – textures and colours from urban life, the beauty of decaying buildings (I love peeling paint and wallpaper), graffiti, interesting lines in nature and so on.
On a more fundamental level, I am influenced by the messiness of life and being human, grief, perimenopausal hormonal mayhem and an ever-increasing desire to make work fully in the moment.
Make us curious. What are you planning to do next?
It’s hard to say! I see each piece as a unique event and try to remain open to new directions that emerge through the process. But I am currently really enjoying working with raw canvas scraps and keen to work bigger and with more collage elements. So maybe that will happen!
I have also just moved home and studio from London to the wonderful seaside town of Margate so I’m getting to know the amazing art scene here and focusing on local opportunities to exhibit. I am also increasingly interested in exploring how I can work with others in the community in a way that embraces the therapeutic potential of abstract expressionist art so I’m excited to see what the future holds for me here.Learn more about the artist: