Culture & Colour on the CanvasNamrata Kumar is an artist of many facets. Just a peek at the catalogue of her work reveals the eye of someone who looks beyond the surface to find the colours & cultures, sights & sounds that are worth celebrating, creating the extraordinary out of the seemingly commonplace.Canvas & Weaves had a chat with this remarkably talented lady to find out what inspires her.
THE TEXTILE DESIGNER'S DAUGHTER
'I'm from a family where art and design is almost a way of life,' she tells us, setting the stage for her artistic success. As the daughter of a textile designer, little Namrata was surrounded by art and design from a very young age, accompanying her mother to the weaving looms and dyeing units, watching her mother discuss material, colour and pattern with the weavers.
'There were always dealers selling vintage textiles from different parts of the country, all the way from Kutch to Kullu.'
The young Namrata freely absorbed all she saw, and as freely indulged her creativity.
'I have memories of tearing up and soaking newspaper and making paste out of 'atta' (flour) and water, which was then combined with newspaper to make paper mache. I would create things ranging from bowls and plates to jewellery and would then paint them intricately.' Namrata still keeps some of these objects she made as a child.
She considers herself lucky in having had a chance to develop her skills quickly and early on in life. 'I was able to experiment with many different mediums, which has allowed me to create a wide range of diverse work and helped me to be confident in my ability to adapt to different artistic approaches.'
She credits her college education for some of her artistic development: 'I was taught to unlearn what I knew, and learn what I didn't know.'
COLOURS AND CULTURES
Namrata's art is incredibly expressive. Her use of colour is especially emotive, moving from brilliantly tinted traditional dress that emphasise a woman's compelling gaze, to meditative muted tones in a landscape that evoke calm and tranquility.
'Choosing the right colours is a crucial step as they set the mood of the artwork, so I definitely take time and try to be thoughtful with this step.' Namrata explains her use of colour to evoke atmosphere and emotional response.
'I choose a colour palette based on the subject of the painting. Colours have the ability to communicate, and when certain colours are used together, they are able to evoke a mood and set a vibe. I generally try and use a limited colour palette for each series, I feel this helps to make the communication stronger.
For example, because the artworks in the Seascapes of Kutch series are painted in a really muted colour palette and have minimal compositions containing very few elements, they evoke a certain stillness, and have an almost meditative atmosphere to them. The artworks in the Fort Cochin series have been painted in a rustic colour palette of cerulean, ochre, rust and teal, with slightly distressed brush strokes, resulting in the viewer being transported to the artistic streets of Cochin, dotted with beautiful old buildings.
The seated women series has a colour palette of deep, rich shades of magenta, green, mauve, turquoise, scarlet, gold and brown which gives the paintings a vivid yet old-world feel.'
Namrata's love of places, people and culture is clear through her art. 'When I visit new places, I like to soak in my environment and understand what gives the place its unique personality. When I paint subjects such as Seascapes of Kutch, and buildings of Fort Kochi, I try to capture the essence of that place and evoke its spirit through my artworks.
The exciting things about art is that it has the power to provoke the imagination, to carry the viewer to another world temporarily, and to allow one to experience the world through someone else’s perspective.'
CELEBRATING THE FEMININE
Three of Namrata's series feature representations of women: The Women of Ceylon, Seated Women and Rani series.
She explains that these are, at their core, about celebrating women: their beauty, their strength, their vulnerability.
'The paintings have a vintage quality to them, these faces belong to the women of yesteryear, but somehow also to the women of today. There’s something authentic about these women, their honesty is communicated through their body language and facial expressions. I think that people can relate to them, and that's that’s why these series have been so well received. The clothing and jewellery elevate the beauty of the women, and make them more striking.'
The fascinating thing about these compelling depictions, says Namrata, is to realise that the women's faces in and of themselves are not 'conventionally' beautiful. 'Their beauty lies in their honesty and authenticity.'
A DAY IN THE STUDIO
Namrata takes us through her creative process.
'The first step is to decide on my subject. Sometimes this happens instantly, and sometimes not. Very often I get inspired by places I travel to, or someone’s work which leads to an idea. Once I have a subject, the next step is to figure out which medium I’d like to use.
The choice of medium depends on the subject and purpose of the artwork, for example for commercial illustrations (for clients) I generally choose to create digital illustrations as they are quicker to make, and client work is usually time-bound.
For personal work, I choose my medium based on the subject of the painting, although I most commonly use acrylic paints since I’m comfortable with them and love the aesthetic and quality of the medium. I also love working with oil pastels, I feel the medium has a lot of character and lends a raw, rough feel to the artwork. It’s such an underrated, under-used medium, I find it an absolute pleasure to work with.'
Namrata then goes through the all-important step of figuring out her colour palette. Then a digital sketch of the artwork is made. Once she is satisfied with the composition, she fills it in either by hand or digitally.
INSPIRATION, INTUITION, INSTINCT
Intuition and instinct, says Namrata, play a colossal role in creating new perspectives, and re-inventing the wheel, which she feels is a crucial role of the artist.
Namrata cites French artist Henri Matisse in particular as being a huge influence. 'I love the use of textiles and colour in his paintings.'
Researching artists has led to important sources of inspiration for Namrata. Over the past year or so, she explains, having rediscovered the work of Matisse, through him, she stumbled upon the Fauvist art movement.
This refer to the work and style of les Fauves (French for "the wild beasts"), a group of early 20th-century modern artists whose spontaneous response to nature was expressed in bold, undisguised brushstrokes and high-keyed, vibrant colors. This resonated strongly with Namrata.
'What I love most about Fauvism is the instinctive, visceral quality of forms and colour. I really believe that art should be an interpretation of what one sees, rather than being an absolute imitation of reality.'
Namrata feels that art can be almost thought of as a 'personal language'.
REFLECTIONS ON THE FUTURE
Namrata credits time and experience with her growing development as an artist.
'While my mind has become more open and receptive to new ideas, I’ve also learnt to understand what works and what doesn’t. As a result, there is more depth, maturity and thoughtfulness in my work.'
Namrata isn't shy, either, in keeping up with the times. Three of her artworks are now available as limited edition NFTs on Terrain Art, a New Delhi based art gallery. And, of course, you'll find most of her beautiful pieces available as high-quality giclee prints on Canvas & Weaves, in a variety of sizes.
Indulge in beauty, colour and a touch of authentic feminine beauty. We promise you'll be mesmerised by Namrata Kumar's beautiful work.
'The works of Klee, Kandinsky, Andre Derrain, Raoul Dufy, Picasso, Matisse, Calder - the list goes on, are all examples of the artist expressing what they see using a combination of instinct and intelligence.
I am finding myself over time, more and more attracted to the use of vivid colours, and abstracted forms that are more expressive than representational. I also find myself drawn to the subjects chosen by the fauves, paintings of room interiors as well as abstract landscapes.'