Renowned author Dr Ampat Koshy met Vinitha Nair, an upcoming painter in the realist mould on Facebook and eventually in real life. When he saw her two paintings with which she burst on the scene, he, like others, was astounded at her aesthetic acumen. Wanting to dig a bit deeper, knowing that such finesse, observation powers, concentration, focus, and eye for detail as well as craft could not come out of nowhere, he interviewed her. Excerpts:
I present Vinitha’s two works that have already gained her a measure of fame. The famed Gombrich has said about pictorial realism that “a complete portrayal might be the one which gives as much correct information about the spot as we would obtain if we looked at it from the very spot where the artist stood.” The first still life she did does this convincingly for us, but the second one shows such a rapid development in showing us the artist in a Bergerian way that we are startled by it in a pleasant way.
While still in the realist mode the question haunts us as to why the ballerina is on the waves and the sky, clouds and waves with its sea-green and froth, and her face, dress everything melt into an idea that we are in the presence of an artist’s inner space and that space has what I would like to point out: something I have often been accused of as an Indian poet, which is that it is not Indian in any marked way.
Vinitha comes from Kerala and acknowledges the influence of a painter like Raja Ravi Varma, in her interview, but her real influences seem more from surrealism, magic realism and the careful juxtaposition of objects that do not necessarily belong together to create an effect in the mind of the viewer that is actually a reaching out to something new and worth following. No wonder success is coming to her quickly.
This one is a classic and traditional still life but even there its mastery reminds us more of a René Magritte than anyone else and of the light used in the realistic Dutch masters of old. Even the objects remind us of Eurocentricism. I know many will criticise me for praising this quality, but precisely for this reason I want to praise her as it seems to me that to do what is alien seemingly better than the aliens is as praiseworthy as to do what is cultural as what makes painting breathe is how innate its soul is to the artist and here one is transnational and it is all about art and not ideology.
I make these remarks not to interpret her work for the reader but to point out that she is worth watching and I await her works of the future that are surely going to be less derivative and more experimental eagerly. India has produced many great painters but there is always space for more and if I am not mistaken she is going to be one, one who to one like me who has read critics on art like a Berger and a Hofstadter feels forced to take an interest in in the hope she will blossom into a painter of such stature that such great critics too would appreciate her works.
Ampat Koshy: Tell us something about yourself in your own words.
Vinitha Nair: My Hobbies are painting (oil painting), dancing (learnt jazz at Ashley Lobo’s dance school, Delhi). Star performer at work in HSBC (Bangalore). But quit the corporate field because I realized my heart was not in it. I prefer the artistic field of painting and dancing.
I love to travel and see the world and different cultures. Have been blessed to travel to eight countries so far. Still a lot to travel and discover.
Being an artist, I love nature, scenery and nothing motivates me more than seeing a beautiful scene in front of me.
I don’t like following rigid rules or fixed time tables but prefer to be flexible and do what really makes me happy. I think it’s important to follow your heart and not blindly confirm to what society says.
And finally being a true blue Bangalorean, I can’t do without my filter coffee (kaapi). I am a member of the Soka Gakkai organisation SGI – which practises Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, their mission being to spread kosen-rufu or world peace.
Koshy: What made you take up painting as a profession, seriously?
Vinitha: I always had a flair for sketching. I used to sketch a lot when I was six years old looking at comic books and newspaper cartoons. So, I always had a natural inclination for drawing as a kid. When I was ten years old, I sketched a portrait of Abraham Lincoln and it was very much appreciated in my school. So, I always had the talent and the skill. They were already there lying latent inside me.
I eventually got busy with my studies and work life and was not able to find time for this talent of mine. It was only last year, the urge to paint surfaced in me which resulted in me doing a still life in oil paint. I realised that with each stroke of my brush, the painting would just come alive on the canvas. It was like pure passion coming out and it gave me a lot of joy.
This painting was much appreciated by everyone including serious and well-known artists. This gave me the confidence and self-assurance that I was on the right track. I realised that this is what I want to do seriously going forward – follow my new found passion – painting.
Koshy: Are you influenced by any particular painters or paintings, and if so who all and why?
Vinitha: I am not influenced by any particular painter or painting. I have a lot of respect for all painters of realism. Rosa Bonheur, Raja Ravi Varma, S L Haldankar, Thomas Heakins, Rob Hefferan, Jeremy Lipking are some of the painters whose works I like.
All their works reflect a high level of skills.
Koshy: Ultra realism is back in demand. What draws you to this sub-genre of painting?
Vinitha: I feel that it is in the genre of realism or ultra-realism that the talent and skill of a painter come out. A painting should reflect the painting skills of the painter. The more the painting skills that are shown, the better the painting. And what better way to showcase your painting skills than realism or ultra-realism, since these genres require the artist to bring forth a high level of skills.
There is an enchanting quality about realism which I don’t find in other genres because of the high level of skills it calls for. Not everyone can do realism because it is a difficult genre. It can be very fascinating to focus on the finer details and bring them to life with my brush. It requires a high level of focus. The more challenging and complex it is, the higher the level of satisfaction I feel as I create it on my canvas.
When I look up at the sky, the scenery and the way the sunlight falls, bathing objects in a play of light and shade, I feel nothing is more beautiful and fascinating than nature itself. And nothing is more beautiful than the human form. And it is in the genre of realism that I can capture all of this.
Koshy: You exhibit an amazing amount of finesse, maturity, concentration and focus for such a ‘young’ painter. What accounts for it?
Vinitha: Thank you the compliments. The finesse comes from an obsessive need for flawlessness. If I am painting even a minute part of the canvas, I need to execute the smallest detail in perfection, for me to be able to feel satisfied to move on to the next part. There is a sense of exhilaration that comes with painting each tiny section flawlessly and then moving on to the next section.
I can be considered as a ‘young’ painter. Hence, the maturity is definitely inborn. It was already there in me lying latent and waiting to be unleashed. I just pick up the brush and it flows out onto the canvas. Pure passion is the only reason behind the high level of concentration and focus. I don’t even realise the hours passing by, as I am completely immersed in my painting when I paint. Nothing can replace the joy that comes from pursuing one’s passion in life.
Koshy: There is an element of derivation in your paintings? Don’t you want to be more original, painting from the imagination? If not, why not?
Vinitha: There is an element of derivation in my painting which is an incidental result of doing realism. While doing realism, we can look at the object we want to paint and use that as the main theme of the painting while improvising on it and adding our own ideas to make it as unique as possible. In the second painting, I preferred to set the backdrop for the ballerina as a sea landscape rather than the ballerina being on stage because I wanted to convey the emotion of serenity in the midst of storms. Alternatively, we can be more original by setting up what we want to paint along with a live model and painting from there or taking a photo of this setting and then painting from the photo which is what many ultra realist artists do including the award winning realist artist Shashikant Dhotre. Going forward, I want to bring exclusivity to my paintings by adding elements of surrealism to it.
Koshy: What are your future plans?
Vinitha: I want to focus mainly on realism / ultra-realism since there is no other genre that fascinates me more. But I want to do paintings in realism which are complex and require very high skill levels. I want to do paintings which are very challenging. Each painting I make should be more complex than the previous one. I also want my paintings to have elements of magic realism, fantasy and surrealism in them.
Koshy: Any words of advice to fellow painters, or beginners?
Vinitha: Self-belief. Have tons of it. There will be plenty of nay-sayers and people who will not want you to succeed. Keep your self belief high. There will be many who will want to see you fall. Keep your sight on your goals. Follow your passion and what interests you in painting whether it is realism, abstract art, cubism, contemporary art, art nouveau etc. Do not follow the trend blindly. Go according to what genre genuinely interests you, regardless of the trend. Because it is only when you follow your passion, your soul-calling that you will be able to break the boundaries and fearlessly set new ones.
Koshy: Any experiences you want to share as a painter and the learning from them?
Vinitha: While doing very tiny details, it’s important to keep the brush free of oil since it’s difficult to blend the lines otherwise.
Koshy: There is a remarkable consistency in quality in your ability so far- any tips on how to achieve it and hold on to it in your own ideas and words?
Vinitha: Thank you. Passion is the key to consistency In quality. When you are passionate about something, consistency in quality comes naturally. I just take it one day at a time. No matter what’s happening around me, whether I am having a bad day or whether I am facing problems or people are trying to create obstacles or hurdles in my path of progress, whatever the situation may be, once I hold the brush in my hand, there is no holding me back. I just forget everything and become completely engrossed in my painting. Just that first brush stroke on the canvas is all I need to fill me with a sense of power, hope and optimism that anything is possible and I become oblivious to everything else. It is passion that gives us the courage to continue regardless of all the hurdles around us. When it is our passion that we pursue, we are infused with an invincible, bold spirit and resolve to take on whatever comes our way and produce exceptionally brilliant works of high quality.
(This interview was first appeared in Duane Vorhees’s award winning blog Poetree.)
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