Expressions of compulsion

Written by Garima Pant | Updated: Apr 10 2011, 07:56am hrs
As one walks amidst the gathering crowds at the Vadehra Art Gallery in the Capital, one cannot miss the petite man surrounded by art enthusiasts. And its his unassuming nature that catches your eye as artist Ved Nayar sits for a chat at the launch of his book and exposition Drawings: Evolving Human Form. Published by Glenbarra Art Museum, Japan, and authored and designed by the artist himself, the book features a selection of Ved Nayars drawings from 1976 to 1993 collected by Masanori Fukuoka, director of the museum.

And Nayar refuses to accept it as his exhibition. The credit should go to Fukuoka. He purchased these works and thought of converting them into a book. The display is a random selection, says Nayar, who got to know Fukuoka through a HelpAge auction in Mumbai where he had displayed his works along with those of his wife and artist Gogi Saroj Pal.

After seeing my works there, he came to Delhi and purchased all my paintings and continued to do so for a long time. He took a few works to Japan. He showed whatever he had collected of Indian contemporary art to critics and collectors there. And according to their opinion, my works were considered the most creative. That's why he continued to buy my work, says Nayar, who started as a painter but later developed an interest in sculpting, too.

He calls his art an outcome of his creative compulsion that pushed him to work and gave him direction. When I started my career, there was no one to buy art. At that time, no one thought what you expressed would sell. However, I had to live by that belief. And when the concept of auction developed, it brought about a huge change in the Indian contemporary art market. It gave me direction and belief that my works could sell, says Nayar.

The youngest in his family, Nayar cannot recall any sign or instance during his childhood, which predicted that he would become a painter-sculptor one day. I was a lonely child who adjusted to aloofness, enjoying it and hating it alternately, says the artist, whose house amidst the jungle of Lyallpur in West Pakistan was one of the biggest influences on him as an artist.

From the house, a pagdandi (pathway) led me through the jungle to the world outside and from the world to my house. My first relationship, outside the house, was the jungle. It tempted me and whenever I came out of my house, it engulfed me. I felt it took the responsibility to prepare me to face the world. It loved me, took care of me and indulged me. It allowed me to explore it, climb the trees, pick the flowers, listen to the conversations of the birds. Sometimes it would also scare me, like when a snake would pass in front of me, says Nayar who has had an artistic career spanning more than six decades.

These earthly qualities form an integral part of his persona as well. His humbleness is evident by the fact that he is still surprised when people appreciate his art or buyers express interest in his works. It was not my intention to venture on the road of glitz, glamour and auctions. However, when you see the environment changing around you, you have to go along with it and allow your creativity to undergo that change. My works did get sold, but not very aggressively. I never thought that anyone would come and buy all my works till Fukuoka did so. Then four years ago, Delhi Art Gallery bought all of my and my wife's works, says Nayar.

This versatile artist, who expresses his creativity through the medium of painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, graphic print, archival digital print, photography, computer, limited edition books and writing, says that every expression and every medium that he has worked under is unique in itself. I don't have any clear favourites, adds the artist.

Nayar calls the journey of his expression through art similar to the journey of contemporary Indian art after Independence of derivation, of introspection and of discovering one's own creative visual expression. He says the current crop of Indian contemporary artists are lucky as they are endowed with the best of opportunities.

Our art schools are based on the concept of British art schools. What is taught here is similar to what is being taught in British art schools. And after five years of training, one comes out with an appreciation for Picasso and others. To be an Indian contemporary artist, it is a big struggle to forget all that you have learnt, says Nayar.

According to him, an artist has to get away from this pedantry and come closer to one's cultural identity. Unless he does that, he will continue to paint and think like a western artist. It was a curse on the entire generation of post-independent artists. Only those who managed to get out of those shackles are the true Indian contemporary artists. Many failed and disappeared from the scene. But now, we have managed to get red of this British hangover and the current crop of artists are luckier. They don't have to forget and find their identities. They will develop as they mature, adds Nayar.