Visual artist Parvathi Nayar reinforces the fragments of life through her art. Tuba Raqshan discovers a whole new world in each piece of the puzzle.
Forget the rose tinted glasses or even the perennially dark ones. Artist Parvathi Nayar chooses to document her world as it is, through the fragmentation of a perspective (or a cultural ethos), to arrive at a particularly interesting visual narrative. For instance, the set of five painstakingly hand drawn boxes in ‘Sex, Cinema and Pollen Grains’ (mixed media with hand drawn graphite on wood), speak of the ‘secret’ sexual life of flowers, using the pollen as an entry point into the work. Juxtaposed with the imagery of pollen are scenes from popular Hindi films of the bygone eras — the couple hidden behind the tree trunk, luscious flowers and the bee buzzing in the centre of the flower. The scientific imagery blends seamlessly with the kitschy pop of mainstream Bollywood as frames from the song Gaata rahe mera dil from the evergreen super-hit film, Guide, are incorporated to create a metaphor of coy aesthetics and allegorical narratives.
“Part of my interest in pollen is how it dovetails with my artistic practices that are concerned with showing hidden, new or unusual perspectives on things that we thought we knew well,” explains Parvathi Nayar, as we casually lounge on the comfortable white chairs of a quaint little street-corner café, which is pleasantly filled but not overcrowded.
Sipping on cups of steaming hot café mocha, this contemporary artist confesses to an innate love for Indian cinema, having spent a large part of her formative years watching Hindi films. The result is clearly evident as scenes from her favourite films are reinterpreted onto the canvas.
Parvathi was one of the 70 contemporary artists chosen from across the country to be a part of B-Seventy, the celebration of Amitabh Bachchan’s grand seventieth birthday. This artistic tribute to cinema’s living legend would translate into a coffee-table book and an exhibition at the Nehru Centre, Mumbai. A visibly excited Parvathi tells us more about ‘Rasa’, her perspective on the iconic star, and his path-breaking film, Zanjeer.
“‘Rasa’ is a riff on the movie Zanjeer. This was the iconic film that catapulted Amitabh Bachchan into public attention and was instrumental in making him the defining icon of his generation: The Angry Young Man and the antihero. At one level, the eponymous ‘chain’ of the movie’s title is a very direct reference to a particular object in the film, to the origins of a young man’s recurring nightmare, whose roots can be traced back to intense childhood trauma. The artwork ‘Rasa’ takes all its imagery — from images of Amitabh and Jaya, to objects such as firecrackers, to moments of drama such as a boy peering from a cupboard — from the movie Zanjeer and re-presents its narrative as a deconstructed chain of the Nine Rasas or nine principle emotions. Like a chain or zanjeer, the images of ‘Rasa’ are all connected and flow from one into the other,” she elaborates.
Most often, Parvathi’s work is deeply rooted in ideas of narrative, expressed through the continuous thread of fragmentation. Her fractured images are another muted signage of our existence, merely brought to notice. “I see the world as pieces of a puzzle. The lives we lead are so fragmented. It is not a smooth, continuous flow. In a deeper way, we are looking for a way to make the fragments come together, to make sense of it, to form a picture,” she avers.
The power is in the minutiae and this Chevening Scholar agrees. “A lot of art still looks to shock or to make an impact. But I think that subtlety is important too, just like how a good book would make you think about things, make you reflect (hopefully) and change or deepen your ideas. I think art can do that. I’m still idealistic about it,” she says, flashing a quick smile.
Confluence of interests
Parvathi reveals that she grew up watching her mother and grandmother paint. “I had always been surrounded by crayons and other instruments of art. I come from a family where my mother and grandmother painted, though not professionally. At school, my art teacher thought I had talent and encouraged me. And interestingly, all the different things which I have done in life come together in art, like my love for films, theatre, music, contemporary dance and literature. My art is a result of that,” articulates this visual artist who has had many group and solo shows across India, Singapore, UK (London) and Indonesia (Jakarta), to name a few. Her paintings are a part of prestigious collections like The Deutsche Bank Art Collection, The Sotheby’s Art Institute and The Singapore Art Museum. This is enough proof that the day-to-day affair needn’t be dreary and also has the power to engage and inspire.
“I think it is less sensational and more meaningful for art to speak about that part of human existence. And, it really matters,” she concludes, leaving behind a valuable thought, one that celebrates the everyday, the things which you see and yet don’t notice and life itself, which is made up of fragments like these.