The best thing about being an artist for me is that I have been able to make my passion my profession! Very few people can be doubly blessed this way. Life, my experiences, and certainly the rhythm and movement which I have imbibed from Indian Classical Dance reflect in my paintings in terms of colour.
I was born in a very traditional family with earlier roots being embedded very much from Pakistan. My Dadaji was a famous Hakim from Miani. Listening to his stories while growing up, I imagined myself to be genetically blessed with intellectual genes! But it was my father who was the blessed artist in the family and gave me my free-flowing spirit and a cultural outlook with my upbringing. As a retired chemical engineer, he inspired me to have wholesome attitude and made me pursue medical science during my school years. My mother was a home science teacher. Both have been a strong pillar of support in every step of my life till date!
Dancing was my first love and I have been dancing ever since the age of five. Dancing has been a major part of my inspiration. I always felt that the rhythm that I imbibed in Kathak was what my very first inspiration to paint. I also started painting in my early years and I enjoyed a different kind of freedom that I never felt before. It was probably attributed to the fact that I started painting in the abstract and believed that I could play around with the pigment to my heart’s content! I do not remember a time when I chose painting because I always saw my father paint from my childhood and remember always doing the same.
As I specialised from the College of Art, New Delhi, I was exposed to a variety of mediums from a very early stage. I loved the medium of mural and did a lot of mosaics along with painting. Printing was another medium that I have tried my hand at, and I particularly enjoy doing Etchings and Mono Prints. But most of all I enjoyed painting in the abstract since I compared it to my rigorous training in Indian classical dance (Kathak) and always felt that there were no bindings in painting – as that of Laya, Taal.
I have been professionally exhibiting my paintings for more than two decades now both in India and abroad. My regular day starts with getting my 14 year-old son ready for school and then doing my yoga class. After that the major part of my day is spent in my studio connected to my art. I feel that it is indeed a luxury for me to have a studio next door hence I can always paint any hour of the day whenever my heart is inspired. As a single mother I try and balance my time between bringing up my teenage son Shayanak and my art exhibitions for which I travel. Traveling is a passion for both me and my son and we travel a lot together.
Tell us about any recent projects
My Solo Exhibition last year was entitled, ‘The Edge of Colour’ at Lodhi Hotel, New Delhi and was indeed a Oil on Canvasmemorable one. It was a body of work created over two years, which was very well received. I experimented in a wide palette of colour, texture and enjoyed impasto oils on the surface of my canvas as never before! The palette knife work, the thick impasto oil paint on a large dimension combine to make some of the works of these series almost sculptural! The Solo Show at Magnolias, Gurgaon this August was a continuation of the same series.
At the moment I am doing large canvases as commissions. It gives me a real thrill doing large format works and I am most comfortable and expressive in them. Also, I am working towards a unique solo exhibition in Ooty in April 2016. I am also working on a series in grid format – building up spaces and landscapes in grids. Of late I have been doing fibre glass sculptures and plan to do a series for my next solo show in Delhi.
What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?
“A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.” Bob Dylan
I truly believe in the above quote! I feel I am successful because I have been able to do just that. And so the biggest challenge has been me – myself. It has taken years of Riyaz to focus my ever flowing spirit and strong mind. I have always have had a dilemma about the fact that I could juggle my passions in life together!
What has been your greatest achievement personally?
My favourite quote is from Pablo Picasso, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
A child paints spontaneously and naturally. I feel that I have been able to achieve that truthfulness with every new work of mine. I have worked closely with children of special needs. I have also conducted a lot of workshops and feel that it makes me truly inspired by learning anew every time I work and spend time with children. Raising a teenager myself single-handedly and knowing perfectly well that none could have done that but me is my greatest achievement. From a very young age my son Shayanak has spent a lot of time in my studio and his special quotes and naive thoughts on life and my paintings have been very special to me.
If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing?
Apart from being a professional artist and exhibiting my work for the last 17 years I have also been a trained Nupur Kundu – Kathak Performance, 1993 classical dancer. I learned Kathak under Guru Ravi Kumar Gangani of Jaipur Gharana from the age of five. I had my very first Kathak performance at India International Centre at the age of six. Later, I performed regularly on stage for almost eighteen years and also achieved a Sangeet Bhaskarin Indian Classical Dance. I also did a few tele-films and serials which had all dance based roles. At the moment I only dance for my own pleasure and inspiration. If I had not been an artist, I certainly would have continued with dance.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
During my early years in my career I was greatly inspired by Van Gogh’s works. He painted more with the palette knife than the brush and poured great energy and thick paint into his canvas. Also American abstract action painter Jackson Pollock’s expressive action paintings imbibed within me a sense of freedom to work the way I started painting. Paul Klee’s naïve works and Henri Matisse’s colour play fascinated me.
Amongst Indian Masters I relate and really admire the works of Prabhakar Kolte. I have learnt a lot from Ram Kumar’s painted abstractions with impasto applied with a palette knife. But my favourite artist has been Anjolie Ela Menon as I look up to her as complete human being who is so true and complete in her profession and above all – a complete women!
Tell us about your most special moments
I felt very special when I was featured in India Today Magazine’s 30th anniversary Issue amongst 30 young successful achievers.
Important landmarks were also when I received The Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini Award for Fine Arts, 2008 and the Junior Fellowship, Ministry Of Culture, Government of India for 2011 – 2013.
I also received The prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Excellence Award for the best Contemporary Artist on 29 September, 2014.
Apart from these awards, one of my most special moments was when I finally executed on site my biggest mural painting in Chandigarh – A Single Piece Oil on Canvas (7 feet by 22 feet) at the Taj GVK, Hotel.
What does the future hold for you?
“Success is a journey, not a destination.” Ben Sweetland
I intend to enjoy the journey of my life