The 1920’s in India saw Company Style due to the ongoing British Colonial Period. While Early Modern Indian Painting had subjects which were purely Indian but were drawn with western techniques and Bengal School was a reaction to the Western influence – reviving our rich cultural heritage.
A century later, 32 year old illustrator – Namrata Kumar is surreptitiously seen fighting religion, race, language brain patterns by drawing only characteristic idiosyncrasies. Since art gives rise to binary thinking, artistic pluralism is seen influencing a wider audience in the digital world. Many from the subcontinent are seen drawing cultural inferences, with differing arts or crafts.
Read on to know how this young woman, in this day and age of strong opinions, manages to stick to the middle ground, appreciating contrasts without being an apparent centrist.
MD: Acquaint us with your background.
NK: I was born and brought up in New Delhi. Did my schooling at Shri Ram School and then studied Visual Communication Design at The Srishti School of Art and Design, Bangalore. Ever since I remember, I have been creatively inclined and an out-and-out bookworm.
My mother, brother and his family and I, live together. Mum is a textile design graduate from NID, Ahmedabad, while brother and sister-in-law are trained architects. But now they collectively run a family business of garments and home textiles.
MD: What have been your art influences through childhood?
NK: Since an early age, I have indulged in art-and-crafts projects. Back then, experimenting with papier mache, clay, and sometimes weaving piqued my interest. At school we had a really good art department which had me engaged till 12th standard.
Moreover, I grew up in a household where art and design is a way of life; that meant inheriting my mother’s artistic genes.
MD: Your paintings look similar to the surrealists’, but what do you think?
NK: My art is inspired by my observations. Traveling to new places, I notice people, their culture, art, design and landscape to understand its unique characteristics; which you can see in my painted seascapes of Kutch, Goa and Fort Kochi. Notice closely the artworks of Kutch have a really muted colour palette and minimal compositions. They evoke a certain stillness of meditative quality. On the other hand the warm, luminous colours with a strong play of light and shadow captures the lazy, laidback appeal of the sultry Goan Summer.
Choosing the right colours is a crucial step which sets the mood of the artwork, so I take my time over it.
Whereas in Sage, Women of Ceylon, Seated Women and Rani series the core element is womanhood – capturing her beauty, strength and vulnerability in a vintage yet contemporary frame. In that I chose to communicate their authenticity through body language and facial expressions.
About my work being similar to surrealists’ could be true, as very often I incorporate the technique for some fantasy and magic. It lends a definite dreamlike quality. Art has the power to provoke our imagination while transporting the viewer to another world temporarily.
MD: What are you working on currently?
NK: I’m currently exploring abstract art to work in depth with colour and forms. And am training in ceramics. One day would like to exhibit both art and ceramics together. Also am looking forward to selling my art prints in concept stores, for a wider audience.
MD: Which artists’ do you admire?
NK: Many!!! I admire some masters and lots of contemporary illustrators from around the world. Vincent Van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Paul Gaughin, Egon Schiele, Richard Diebenkorn, Paul Klee, Ben Shahn, Alexander Calder are a few masters I appreciate. And Beya Rebai, Kirsten Simmons, Oamul, Jean Julien, Rosie Harbottle, Isabelle Feliu, Damien F Cuypers, Prashant Miranda, Sujay Sanan are few names of contemporary illustrators which come to my mind.
Keeping the ongoing global events in mind I am eager to see what the other artists shall display at the upcoming India Art Fair – leftist, rightist or simply a centrist ideology?