Artist Spotlight // Hemu Ghia-Aggarwal

What do you enjoy most about art and what themes do you pursue in your art?

Freedom of expression. It helps me to reduce stress. The textures and colors are the themes in all of my art pieces. May it be a landscape, or figurative, of an abstract, a variety of textures and well-balanced colors are represented in each section.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

It’s hard to explain why I paint or what inspires me. I have a thousand ideas in my head, and I am continually experimenting with different subjects, styles, and techniques. I do not know how these ideas come from or from where they just do. There is so much more out there in the world that I long to explore. Actually, anything and everything around me inspires me, and sometimes things that are not around but only appear in my dreams. Sometimes I surprise myself when I can transfer these imaginations two-dimensionally. I wish I could lock-up every image I see through my eyes because I feel my glance is not fully capturing what I see. There is so much beauty in this world. 

How has living in India affected your art?

India has always been known as the land of age-old vibrant traditions and folk arts. I grew up in India watching and creating Rangoli, which is is a folk art of India. They are decorative designs made on the living room and courtyard floors during Hindu festivals typically consisting of bright colors. Also, the miniature paintings of Mughal, Rajasthan, and Pahari Kalam made a profound influence on my art. The temples of Khajuraho made a lasting impression of art in my psyche. One of the reasons I was able to get a job in record album design is my strong background in Indian art and the colors.

What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?

This is a difficult question. But, if I must choose it would be my paints. Without them, I can not do anything.

Tell us about your graphic design firm in New York.

The graphic design firm, AQ Graphics, Inc. was started in 1980, and I ran it successfully for 25 years. I designed many Hip-Hop albums, including Grandmaster Flash and Furious Five’s “Message” album, The Sugar Hill Gang, Positive Force, Treacherous Three, Quincy Jones and many others. I also designed a series of Collector’ records of the 50s and 60s in which a few famous artists such as Dionne Warwick, Ritchie Valance, Dion, Del Shannon, and the Everly Brothers were included. I also worked extensively on re-make of the entire Chess Records Catalog which included artists such as James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Chuck Berry, Benny Goodman, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, The O’Jays, Etta James, Charlie Parker, Flamingos, Bobby Womack, etc.

Click to see this web interview of my Hip-Hop designs.

How did you construct album covers?

Each album was constructed differently depending on the music, and other factors. Sometimes I used a photograph of the singer or the group, but many times a photo was not well suited then I created the whole cover with illustration. For example, in The Beatles Song Book album, I illustrated the meaning of each song comprised in the collection. For the Sequence album, I creatively drew the trio singers to make an attractive album.

What made you switch from commercial to fine arts?

Commercial art was a need. A need to make a living, a financial success. Fine art was a desire, freedom, a personal expression. In commercial art, it was totally different in nature. Working under pressure of tight deadlines, the focus was to please clients and to keep commercial appeal in mind. 

In fine art, you have to please yourself. No restrictions, no deadlines, full freedom. After a long career in commercial art, it was a time I wanted to just please myself.

View Hemu’s VIDA Collection