Tanya Goel is best known for her grid paintings that distil the mayhem of city life into orderly arrangements in colour. Informed by her interests in pigmentation, material and light, the artist reflects upon both changing landscapes and ruptures in spaces. Goel's process also calls alchemy to mind; the materials that comprise her paints are collected by the artist from buildings and demolition sites. Back in her studio, Goel pulverises and chemically analyses her found materials—including limestone, brick, mica, concrete, cement, glass, aluminium, soil, graphite and foils—before extracting pigments. Her paintings, then, not only document the city's architecture but also the artist's movements throughout the debris of the metropolis.
After completing an MFA at Yale University in 2010, Goel moved to Brooklyn where she made a series of large-scale works based on opaque screens such as the blue tarpaulin that conceals construction sites. As an artist who has lived in various cities, perhaps it is no surprise that Goel is concerned with changing landscapes, and that the grid, reminiscent of architectural plans, is the foundation of her oeuvre. Indeed, her large-scale paintings such as Field, notation (2/1) or Field, notation (3/1), both completed in 2015, simplify the spectacle-oriented chaos of urbanity into orderly, patterned grids. Goel's renditions of the lack of familiarity in rapidly changing cities echo the abstraction of Russian constructivists, while her systematic use of line evokes Nasreen Mohamedi's drawings.
Equally significant as the grid in Goel's paintings is light. Whether natural or artificial, the artist considers light the essence that animates everyday existence. As the artist relayed in 2017, her paintings are surfaces on which light 'plays out as fiction'. For example, the rectangles of colour in Carbon (x, y) and Semitone—both presented in the 2017–18 exhibition This, the Sublime and its Double at Nature Morte, New Delhi—seem to ripple lyrically under light. Upon closer inspection, however, the illusion of movement is broken and instead individual textures and shapes begin to emerge. Exploring the reciprocal relationship of light to colour, Goel creates optical illusions to invite the viewer closer and to have them ponder where one ends and the other begins.
Goel studied painting and drawing at the M S University of Baroda (2007) and at School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2008), after which she received an MFA in painting and printmaking from the Yale University School of Art (2010). In 2012 she was the recipient of a City as Studio fellowship from Sarai, New Delhi. Selected group exhibitions include the Biennale of Sydney (2018); India Art Fair, New Delhi (2018, 2013); and Salaam Bombay: Beauty & Chaos In The Urban Environment, ART ASIA in Miami and Twelve Gates Arts, Philadelphia (2012).