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Week Twelve 


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Nirmal Raja, From the Earth series. Egg tempera on panel, 4 x 4 inches.   
Top: Looming Storm / Tomorrow is Another Day
Bottom: Silos / Sea Weed

Welcome to Week Twelve of PSG on PAPER, Portrait Society's on-line drawing exhibition. 

We are so pleased to present a new body of work this week by Nirmal Raja! 

"From the Earth" utilizes ground pigments suspended in egg yolk as a binder. Called 'egg tempera,' this was the common method used in Medieval painting before the invention of oil paint. When looking at the powdered pigments, you can directly see the transformation of mineral-derived colors into painted forms.  It is as if these are not invented compositions but rearranged geologies.  


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Ditta G. Poggi art supply store in Rome


From The Earth
4 x 4 inch panels
Egg tempera, graphite and scratching on panel
Mounted in boxes that are 4, 3 and 2 inches wide
$250 each, framed


(In March and April, the UWM Food Center & Pantry saw a sevenfold increase in demand.  Nirmal is donating her proceeds from this show to The UWM Food Center and Pantry).

NIRMAL RAJA: Just before Christmas last year, my family and I made a trip to Italy after many years. We made sure we spent a few days in Rome, as it is by far my favorite city in Europe. We were walking in the Trestevere neighborhood one day and came across an art supply store that was just so interesting – Ditta G. Poggi. I would later find out that this store was founded in 1825 and has supplied artists like Giorgio de Chirico, Mariao Schifano and others. The historic Roman art shop has sold art supplies in Rome for almost two centuries. I was drawn to the packages of colorful pigments hand tied and neatly lined up on shelves. There was something really direct and handmade about them. With a limited budget and luggage space, I obtained small containers of earth colored pigments to take a piece of this history home. I decided to use the pigments I obtained in Rome for my next series of daily practice- egg tempera on small 4 x 4 inch panels.

After many decades, I am finding my way back to egg tempera. There is something very sensual about the way this ancient material feels in my hands and the diffused way it reflects light.

I started my daily practice around three years ago to find my way back into my practice after a devastating election. I tend to do large projects that are heavily researched and planned. As a counterpoint, I needed something in my practice that is completely the opposite – something immediate and intuitive. Now I am on my fifth series of 101 small works. Why 101? The large number pushes variation within limitation and provides me with a formal and creative challenge. In India, there is a tradition to add one to any monetary gift. This is an act that symbolizes a wish for growth. Similarly, in my ongoing series of 101s, I wish for growth in the body’s ability to translate what the subconscious mind intuits.

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Ground pigments from Ditta G. Poggi in Rome.


Nirmal Raja is an interdisciplinary artist living and working in Milwaukee, WI. Born in India, she has lived and travelled in several countries. Raja received a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature in India, a diploma in Graphic Design from the Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. She received her MFA in painting and drawing at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee in 2012, and subsequently took online courses in Curatorial Studies from the Node Center in Berlin, Germany. 


Nirmal is currently a mentor for the Milwaukee Artists' Resource Network's mentorship program. She was previously a mentor and artist in residence at RedLine Milwaukee, an urban arts incubator. Currently, she works out of her studio in the Third Ward's Marshall Building (on the fifth floor next to Portrait Society Gallery). 


She has participated in solo and group shows in the Midwest, nationally and internationally. A major exhibition, "On Belonging,"  was presented at the Warehouse in 2019, in collaboration with photographer Lois Bielefeld, as well as a solo exhibition at The Alice Wilds. She has won several awards and has received grants from the Wisconsin Arts Board and the Milwaukee Arts Board. She was a Mary L. Nohl Fellowship finalist in 2019. She has also received grants for traveling her work to exhibitions across the nation from the Mary L. Nohl Suitcase Export Fund. Raja's curatorial projects include: Hanji Translated, Chennai, India; India Inked! (co-curator), Edmonton, Alberta; Reclaimed Baggage, Northern Illinois University Art Museum, DeKalb, IL. 

PSG on PAPER is a weekly

on-line drawing exhibition

April through July, 2020

Sign up on the mailing list below! 

Portrait Society Gallery is pleased to present PSG on PAPER, an exhibition about drawing. Each week, the gallery presents the work of one artist. 

All of the work can be purchased on the website's Store (above in menu). We will porch deliver anywhere in the MIlwaukee area free of charge. 

Artists include: Emily Belknap (Week Ten), Melissa Cooke, Steve Burnham (Week Nine), Skully Gustafson (Week One), Pat Hidson (Week Three), Nykoli Koslow (Week Two), Ashley Lusietto (Week Five), David Niec (Week Eleven), Rosemary Ollison (Week Seven), Amy O'Neill (Week Eight), Mark Ottens, Nirmal Raja, Rafael Francisco Salas (Week Six), Della Wells, M Winston (Week Four), Christopher T. Wood. 

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Nirmal Raja in her studio. Photo by Sara Risley. 

This week, Nirmal asked fellow artists to curate their own groups of work from the 101 paintings in "From the Earth," and add a few lines of descriptive/poetic text. 



David Niec   
The heat of a cluster of flames got smothered by a cold icy looming storm which eventually gave way to a cold but gentle rain. As evening neared this all settled into something of a shimmer.












































Ashley Lusietto   






























Mark Ottens   
Bells with one armed Mell                                       
at the Anchor. Peanuts in
bowls, the shells around us.
A cold in the head, one
falls from a stool. Outside
the rain in sheets comes
blackly. Lost Key. Follow
the rails home. Fall from
trestle. Wake in morning
amongst cattails and reeds. 


































Steve Burnham                 
Night into day, day into night.                                                    





























Rafael Francisco Salas   
Lands of elegy




























Tony Nickalls,  gallery assistant   
Water and fire, the Phoenix rising from the rain. Life sustaining rain cleansing the air when today we are afraid to breath because of virus, because of particles, because of combustion products. 










































Paul Salsieder, gallery assistant  
Minimal forms still
Breach the sky's pale enamel
Waves stop. Travel back.





































Would you like to curate your own group of work?
All 101 "From the Earth" paintings can be seen HERE

All paintings are egg tempera, 4 x 4 inches
Mounted in boxes, three different depths.
$250 each

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