On 14th May 2015, The M P Birla Millennium Art Gallery, in West Kensington, London played host to The Passage to India, an art exhibition of four British artists who have depicted their inspiration and passion for India through their art. The ensemble of artwork belonged to Jann Singh, Lucille Nesbitt-Comaskey, Allison Rudd-Mumford and Dorothy Morris.
Jann Singh started painting and drawing at a very young age. However, she decided to study at the Watford School of Art in her thirties. Her Indian connection is from her husband, who is originally from New Delhi. She married at the age of 22 and since then, she has extensively travelled throughout India. She has always been fascinated about India yet it was just only recently that she became more inspired to paint. “The Indian influence has always been there, because my husband is Indian, that obviously comes through.”
Jann Singh has drawn inspiration from nature and village people in India. To her, India is a vibrant country which fascinates her. “India to me is colour. The people are so friendly and warm. I think we could learn from their families; their families are so strong and dedicated to each other.”
She also spoke about how she would like to merge the British and Indian culture in her prospective artwork. “What I'd like to do in the future... will be more of a mixture of the cultures. I'd like to mix it up a bit more.”
Lucille Nesbitt-Comaskey has not only been drawn to the fine arts, but she also has a BA (Hons) in Performing Arts, from the University of Hertfordshire and has an acting diploma from L.A.M.D.A. In the past, she has travelled to India several times and even went on a painting holiday in November 2012. In October 2014, she organised another painting trip where she took a group of artists to Amritsar, in North India. Going on these artistic trips to India drew her to Indian art and culture and the influence was made evident in her work. “The passion and the colours that come out of your artwork is incredible, because India is a very colourful place. You've got all the warmth of the people, you've got all the colours around you and it's so busy that you can't fail to just put it down on canvas.”
She went on to say, “There is so much history, there is so much to learn in India. I and the other artists were so passionate because I think there is to take in and so historical that you can't not want to go there and paint.”
For some of Lucille Nesbitt-Comaskey's work, she used an iPad to create the images. She believes it is far easier to paint on canvas than it is on the iPad. “It's done with a stylus, so it's still my hand and it's just like using a pen. Then you can adapt your colours, just like you would if you were using your own canvas. It's the same principal but it's harder. When I say it's harder, it's easy to paint on canvas than it is to work on your iPad.
Allison Rudd-Mumford has a BA (Hons) in Fine Arts. She has been a professional artist for many years and she regularly exhibits her work in group and solo shows. She visited India for the first time in October 2014, for a painting retreat and has described India as a “sensual feast.” “I was just overwhelmed by the colours, by the smell and the bustle and the noise. It's fantastic- such a sensual experience for me. I am a very sensual person, I am not a realist in my work at all.”
Her experience in India has given her a lot of inspiration which she utilises in her artwork. “These images and the things that have come to me really are a result of an overload of sensory stuff.”
Allison Rudd-Mumford had no knowledge of India and had a preconceived notion prior to going on the retreat trip last year. “I had a kind of impression of India that you pick up from the media and various things that you see on the television, and I love Bollywood films. But I didn't really have any first-hand experience of India. It was just so new... I've just been bowled over by India, what more can I say?”
Their artwork encompasses an array of colours, culture and journey which encapsulates and enchants you. What also seems really fascinating is the passion and love that these non-Indian women have for India. At a time where urbanisation of cultures seem to be prevalent and the youths' interest in their heritage and culture is on a decline, the Indian art and culture yet continues to live on and inspire many through the work of such artists, who dedicate a lot of time and effort in their craft.