Art for the soul

A scholar once said: “Art speaks where words are unable to explain,” and we couldn’t agree more. Every piece – whether a painting, a sculpture, an artefact or a photograph – reveals its creator’s personality and thought process. And while art can be interpreted in myriad ways, it is up to the artist’s imagination to hit the right chord, and get the correct message across. Here are some of the country’s top names in the field of art who have managed to strike the right chord time and again.        – Niharika

Sudip Roy

This Kolkata-based artist is proficient in all traditional mediums of art including water colour, charcoal, oil, and wash paintings. It’s the subject and the composition that makes him choose the medium, he says.

His journey into art began in 1986 after he completed his college. Back then, Sudip didn’t have money or space to keep his paintings, but now his work is displayed at every leading art exhibition and gallery in the country and several galleries abroad too. When asked where he draws inspiration from, Sudip says that he has, over the years, worked on various subjects and objects for which he was inspired by Indian tradition and culture. He adds, “My inclination was more towards realism, but in a gradual process it has developed into abstraction. Being stagnant and comfortable with one thing kills growth, I believe.” The artist par excellence is currently working on abstracts that he is thoroughly enjoying. “To break free from the realism I have been doing for years and now transcending my inner feelings and emotions with just forms and colours is something  I really enjoy,” Sudip states.

Anju Kumar

For artist and sculptor Anju Kumar, creativity is not restricted to one medium. Instead, art is a flow that may change from one form to another depending on one’s interest and inclination. “We artists don’t like to restrict ourselves to a single medium. When I set out in 1990, I did so with terracotta. Back then nobody knew about the art form,” she says, adding that she found clay to be a fluid medium for expressing herself. “It’s like creating everything out of nothing,” she says.

In the last 27 years of her professional life, Anju has worked on murals, sculptures, paintings, terracotta figures, fabric, vases, and more. But terracotta is her first love. The feeling of working with earth (clay) is unparalleled, she says. Her company, Studio Anmol, is named after her son; it also stands for precious, which both her work and son are to her.

Anju shares that it is very difficult to pick a favourite collection, because while an artist is creating something, it is always their favourite, as they are putting in their best efforts and imagination in creating it. And although they might or might not be happy with it when it’s finished, the journey is what makes it meaningful. She adds, “If you’re honest and true to yourself and actually create something straight from your heart, it will be amazing.”

Although Anju was fascinated with brighter colours when she started, she has, over the years, realised that she’s comfortable with earthy colours like gold, beige, and other neutral shades, too. The artist draws inspiration from just about anything – from flowers and butterflies, to a book she’s currently reading, or even the simple and non-artistic things in life. “We artists are very blessed to be able to express ourselves in so many ways. God is very kind to us,” confesses Anju, who never actually planned to be in this profession. Although her father was a very good artist, Anju was inclined towards academics, and only indulged in art as a hobby. But it was in 1983, after her marriage, that she began painting. One day a gentleman saw Anju’s work and introduced her to the manager of ITDC, Hotel Kanisha (the now Hotel Shangri-La in Delhi) who gave her an offer she couldn’t refuse. However, due to lack of funds, the hotel couldn’t buy all her pieces, and hence she decided to host an exhibition herself, to showcase her work. The exhibition was a complete sell-out, and the rest as they say is history!

Surita Tandon

Surita Tandon is an established Pop Art artist from Delhi and one of the first to challenge the traditions of fine art in India by incorporating images of popular culture on canvas. Born in Kolkata, Surita graduated from Loreto College and completed her master’s in mass communication. She has done a number of group shows including The Khushi art shows, Harvest annual shows by Arushi Arts, Devotion by Art positive, Lodhi Art Festival, and a group show in Alliance Francaise Delhi and Mumbai, amongst others.

She plays with a range of acrylic and oil paints, while showering her canvas with unique materials such as sand, metal, crystals and beads. Her canvases exude a kaleidoscope of colours, and are sure to add a flamboyant punch to any space. One of Surita’s major achievements is the recognition of her art by Narendra Modi, who personally received her ‘India Shining’ painting. Her coffee table book, Popsicles (2014), was also well-received by art critics and art collectors. It epitomises the glamour, flashes of neon imagery, and icons of seduction that embody her artwork. Aside from her passion for contemporary pop art, she is an active fitness enthusiast and enjoys exploring her creative streak in interior home design. Surita has also designed the farmhouse of the Ambassador of Uganda in New Delhi and the interior of Nirvana Spas. 

Sarla Chandra

In the last 45 years, Sarla has tried her hand at various art media and experimented with numerous techniques. She chooses the format according to her subjects, by considering what best suits it. “I have painted rocks, which is a recurring theme in my art – in oils, water colours, and acrylic. I have even used gold and silver foil to bring out that glow and radiance that I visualised when I interacted with them,” she says, adding that she now uses a thin layer of silver or gold foil pasted directly onto the canvas. Once it is dry, Sarla applies colours according to the theme and idea that she has in mind. Ultimately, every painting reflects a subtle glimmer of silver or gold from behind the colour palette, creating a dramatic visual effect.

Sarla is known for the variety that she presents in her works, not only in the subjects, but also in terms of technique. “I have done a lot of figurative works on the theme of religious confluence. People love my Hanumans and Ganeshas and, recently, Shiva’s family has also enjoyed great adulation,” she exclaims.

This veteran artist’s work has been continuously evolving over time. This is reflected in the thematic growth of her works, from the figurative Gods and Goddesses to the non-figurative depiction of earth’s natural elements. “I believe the collection which is based more on thought, energy and philosophy is my favourite at present,” she says.

Having done over 50 solo and group shows and having shared her art with people in India and all over the world, Sarla’s latest collection is based on cosmic energy. After hearing so many Indian scriptures and philosophies from across the world, the last few years have seen her inclined towards subjects that express the concept of energy in all its manifestiation. Sarla has also compiled her retrospective book that was pubished in 2012.

Sarla believes that art is not merely a profession. It’s a form of meditation. She says, “I began painting at a very early age and soon my paintings became an extension and expression of my daily experiences, thoughts, and emotions. My brush and paints are my language, and the canvas is my platform through which I communicate with the world around me. My art is a personal expression of my love for Indian culture and a compulsive inner urge to explore the capabilities of the mind,” she says.

“People like my work and relate well with my subjects. I get a chance to meet people with similar interests and discuss our methods, themes, and experiences. These interactions encourage and inspire me to do more hard work in a professional way,” she adds.

A tip for budding artists: hard work always pays off in the long run. “Learn from the West, but be indigenous. There is a wealth of creativity, ideas and knowledge that has stemmed from our culture. Be inspired from it. Do not lose confidence when you don’t sell. Have faith and be honest to yourself,” she concludes.

Jaideep Mehrotra

Jaideep is an established artist who constantly pushes himself to innovate. Over the years he has worked with everything from the traditional techniques to digital, video and other new materials. “Inspiration can be drawn from anyone, anything, and anywhere – a song, a book or another piece of art. It embeds itself in my subconscious and encourages a new element in my work.

He says, “My paintings are like my children; it’s very hard to pick a favourite. Since I am always innovating, each collection tends to be very different from the last. It is when I am excited by a theme or an element that keeps popping up in a new collection, I follow that direction to the next phase. ”Jaideep’s last series, Cognitivus, focused on the mental processes involved in gaining knowledge and comprehension. Books were the theme of the last show, and while working on those pieces he experimented with having metallic surfaces on canvas. “It was this idea that I ran in my latest show. Reflective, highly metallic works that mirror life and the viewer, allow the viewer to be part of the work. It involves a technique I have developed myself after seven years of research,” says Jaideep, who was drawn to art from a very young age.

“As a child I was always drawing and creating. My mother was also very artistic, and growing up in a house where art was important encouraged me to follow my passion. In school, I wanted to learn oil painting so badly, that I convinced the teacher to teach me how to use it, even though only the seniors were meant to learn it. Art has always been at the core of what I am.”
A tip for future artists is to be honest with yourself, be passionate and work hard. Don’t make art for the money. Do it for yourself. Do it because you love it.

Ramanjit Alang

It’s not very often that passion turns into profession, but that’s what happened with Ramanjit Alang, who used to paint out of passion until her friends insisted that she teach their kids how to paint. This resulted in Ramanjit opening a school – Art Avenue School – to nurture people’s creative talent. At the Art Avenue School, they approach the practice of contemporary art and the history and theories that inform it in an experimental, research-oriented, imaginative way.

A true art lover, everything around Ramanjit inspires her. She says, “I feel art is the strongest form of communication. For me, it is an extension of my personality. Right from my love for nature to my love for dressing up and even my love for my family – everything around me inspires me.”

Specialising in acrylics on canvas, Ramanjit says, “Acrylics burst onto the artistic scene at a time when artists were beginning to explore movements and forms such as pop culture, photorealism, abstract expressionism, and pop art. It proved to be an ideal medium for these art forms, which sought hard-edged flat images and distinct use of lines. ”Although late to arrive, acrylic painting have marked an influence in the development of 20th century art movements and forms.

Talking to us about her latest collection, she says, “My new collection is dedicated to powerful women. It’s called Lips Don’t Lie, and is dedicated to all those powerful ladies who are out to conquer their own world.” Her paintings revolve around a strong conviction that each woman has the right to express, and once they express – they depict and put forward the right meaning to things.
Having begun her professional career as an artist in 2010, her exhibitions include a solo show at Alliance Francaise de Delhi, a group show at Habitat Centre, a group show at
Sahityakala Academy, Youth Festival Delhi, Jaipur Art Festival–2015, and M.F. Husain National Award 2015 and many more.