The Abstract Expressionist

Rajesh Kumar

What did you want to be when you were growing up? For Rajesh Kumar, he’d always thought he’d be a fashion designer.

But it was art school and an encouraging teacher that led to him discovering a love (and gift) for painting and the fine arts.

Drawing and sketching was his method of expression, and he found joy in how a painting offers the freedom of creativity and movement. Art became his calling.

Rajesh’s journey began as a traditional painter, working on portraits, backdrops and scenes. As an artist, he was inspired to explore more adventurous mediums, experimenting with different materials and methods.

Eventually, Rajesh ventured into abstract expressionism, a form of abstract art often characterised by energetic brush strokes and the impression of spontaneity. The art does not mimic a visual reality, and is only captured by the artist’s imagination.

An abstract painting of Singapore’s Changi beach by Rajesh Kumar.

The movement unfolded when artists of different styles gathered in post-war New York during the late 1940s.

Their art practices of abstract expressionism portray a timeless era of freedom, with no genre nor ideologies associated with it; it is simply a synthesis of the artist, a blank canvas, and free-expression.

Rajesh reuses ingredients such as turmeric powder and pulverised dried leaves to add colours to his artworks.

Following one’s passion isn’t always smooth-sailing. As an emerging artist, Rajesh took on a bartending job to support himself. While mixing drinks behind the bar, he noticed the sheer amount of waste that was produced on a daily basis.

The artist in him was inspired to reuse this “waste” for art, contributing to a work that is not only created by recyclable materials but is also beautiful and thought-provoking.

He researched for months, experimenting with methods such as pulverising and adding on to ingredients that were used for cocktails. Like most artists whose art is largely influenced by personal experience, Rajesh’s background as a bartender has played a part in defining his style of art.

Rajesh took two months to finish his masterpiece on the Eastern and Oriental Express.

For Rajesh, his highlights as a professional artist include the very first project he was commissioned to create at an old metal factory; painting Native Bar, one of Asia’s Top 50 Bars; as well as his first glow-in-the-dark mural that was displayed at the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore.

Rajesh’s big break came about in 2017 when he was invited to paint the carriages of the famed and timeless Eastern and Oriental Express, a luxury train that runs from Singapore to Bangkok.

Tasked to portray “luxury” and “travel” in a one-of-a-kind creative form, he was struck with the idea of painting koi fish in a pond.

“If someone was to watch the train in motion from the outside, they would be looking at moving koi in a real pond. That was the impression that I wanted to give.”

The masterpiece specially created for The Prima Donna Life.

The Prima Donna Life team had the pleasure of observing Rajesh in his element and was awed by his technique and virtuosity.

The end result? A portrayal of beauty in simplicity – a vibrant piece created using common home items such as turmeric powder and bay leaves, rosebuds and hibiscus, as well as lacquer and wood varnish.

Rajesh hopes to continue pushing the boundaries of materials and art and inspire other artists to do the same. Just like what American philosopher Henry David Thoreau says, “The world is but a canvas to our imagination.”

To view more of Rajesh’s artworks, check out his Instagram here, or reach out to him through email at rajesh.kumar @ hotmail.sg

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