An economist, painter and brilliant colourist with a strong individualism in her work, Mumbai-based artist Nayanaa Kanodia creates a symphony of dialogues through her art.
Nayanaa Kanodia’s story is that of talent, passion and vision. Born in 1950 in Pune, Maharashtra, the economist turned painter is a pioneer in the genre of L’Art Naif in India (visual art by someone who lacks formal training in art). Having had a French leave of absence from formal training in art enabled her to bring patterns of strong individualism into her work-long before it was considered the sought-after approach by contemporary artists. Her paintings make you feel like you are watching a snapshot of life at maximum burst of energy. Her artwork has been bought by major art collectors and global corporate houses across the world. Close to displaying her new exhibition at the Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai, Kanodia talks to MARWAR about the inspiration behind it.
Tell us about your forthcoming exhibition.
My forthcoming collection stems from the bleak existence of Covid. After the trauma and melancholy of the pandemic, I made peace with our tryst withdestiny. I had survived with joy, sorrow and humour. Through my collection, I am trying to create a symphony of dialogues between emotions, culture, society and experiences. I absorbed the vast spectrum of environment with an open-minded comprehension and a humorous approach to my perceptions. I picturised the intersection between the illusions of thought and the reality of foresight and imagination.
How do you create conversations through your paintings about the truth of life?
The conversation I hope to create in my work is a certain truth of life and, on a deeper level, a wellthought philosophy. I construct fantastic versions of accessible scenes, both rural and urban utopias. Individuals may interpret my paintings in vastly disparate ways and each view will be equally logical, thought-provoking and intriguing. A picture of the moment is built in through which whole histories and relationships are made visible. My work is all about time and through my paintings, time is movement still.
Tell us more about your paintings.
When the world that disturbs me and the world of which I have an intimate understanding of is amalgamated and absorbed, a new artistic dialect is created. My paintings make you feel that you are watching a kaleidoscope of life at maximum preposterousness, bursting with energy. One can grasp the complexity and nuance of my vision only after abandoning pre-conceived notions and keenly observing the relationships and components at play. The projected images serve as a veneer behind which an infinite number of interpretations are possible. Behind the pedantically accurate scene, the world is so true, naked and ludicrous that we catch our breath as we recognise it.
An economist turned into a painter and colourist, what was your journey like?
I was interested in art and would draw and paint all the time. Due to circumstances, I could not attend a professional school of art. I was brilliant in studies and won a National Scholarship of the Government of India, and completed my graduation in Economics-Honours from Lady Shri Ram College in New Delhi. Painting was my passion even during college. I read books on the great masters of art to learn their techniques, art strokes and brushwork till I developed my own style. I can safely say that I worked harder than any art school student, to make-up for the lack of knowledge. It was like studying for two diverse streams of education at the same time. My determination paid rich dividends in honing my talent. I am a self-taught artist except for the year-long apprenticeship with acclaimed artist Anjolie Ela Menon where I established my own signature and carved out a career in art.
You have a rare niche in the genre of L’Art Naif in India. Comment.
I am the pioneer of the genre of L’Art Naïve in India. In a contemporary context, things of everyday life on the streets and indoors will eventually disappear with economic growth, progress and modernisation. I have tried to bring focus to India’s lifestyles-past and present-and for us to reflect on the merits of each situation that we are subjected to. My paintings are infused with deceptive simplicity, mirthful lyricism and a spirit of authenticity.
My work is a reflection of the changing face of India. The static demeanour of my portrayals lends itself to movement through colours, patterns and details, and the Indian spirit reminiscent of centuries past fusing with the invasion of modern amenities.
How do you identify or relate with colours?
Colours are the lifeline of my everyday life. My surroundings and objects are first judged by their colour. My paintings have a myriad of colours. Painting with so many colours is even more difficult than having a limited colour palette. I would also like to add that bringing mirth and satire in a painting in a way that viewers can interpret, is more difficult than showcasing a tragedy.
How does painting inspire you?
Painting is my lifeline. I feel drained out and experience a huge vacuum in my life the day I do not paint.
What’s your favourite medium to paint?
My favourite medium is oil on canvas. I am also adept at mixed media on paper, which consists of watercolours, gouache, pastels, sketch pens and glitter. Both the mediums are well received by art collectors and art lovers.
What social message do you convey through your work?
I want to spread the message of conserving the environment and preserving our cities from global warming, gender discrimination and maintaining a positive attitude in our daily lives.
What do you look forward to in your journey?
I am the first Indian to have been appointed by the Prizma Art Prize, as a Senior Judge in their Rome Dividere. I look forward to other firsts in my career. I sincerely believe that one should keep striving for higher levels of perfection.
Beyond art, what interests you?
I enjoy going to museums all over the world and viewing paintings of other artists. I also enjoy spending quality time with my children and grandchildren and really look forward to this.