Natasha Kumar: A Vibrant British-Indian Vision

Sunetra Senior Saturday 20th March 2021 03:32 EDT
Natasha Kumar � Royal Chhatris  - 1

Natasha’s vibrant soulful paintings define her uniquely British-Indian art; blending the contemporary cosmetic colour of the West with the deep emotional pride that characterises traditional India, her cross-cultural painting has been exhibited along Southbank as well as presented to the Dalai Lama! This bright intricacy is strikingly clear in her latest series, Indian Woman (pictured), which depicts rural South-Asian women intimately immersed in their ordinary yet equally dynamic worlds. The meditative artist commented on the inspiration: “The work began, some 8 years ago, when first visiting the Nagaur Fort and Palace on the edge of the Thar desert. I had not noticed the significance of the women rushing around, carrying heavy trays of terracotta pots in the heat of the day and carefully placing them on the ground one by one in neat rows and patterns under the instruction of a younger man. At the end of the day, I noticed a woman, clearly exhausted, but still standing proudly upright, holding her tiffin tin close to her, patiently waiting for a suitable male escort to accompany her through the streets. She would be going home now to fulfil her household duties.

I attended the Sufi festival being held in the Fort that evening. I followed hundreds of these oil lamps now flickering with light up a dusty track, past the stables and through beautifully lit corridors and halls to an open courtyard (…) Welcoming me were the same women I’d seen earlier in the day now dressed in new saris, bearing flowers and smiles.” Here, referring specifically to the painting, Cosmic Change, as part of the collection, Natasha elaborated: “Indian Woman is trying to find her place in the modern world set against a background of an Islamic, geometric pattern where spiritual tradition and the fast-paced movement forward through the circular cosmic order are in constant flux… Is the geometric design a deconstruction of the social framework and Indian Woman is walking into a newly self-defined image, educated and equal in her role to men, or is the incomplete geometric design a negative deconstruction which symbolises Indian woman failing to assert herself and struggling to complete? The viewer must decide.”


In this way, Natasha beautifully presents the very definition of strong art: the socio-political solutions organically emerging, the best pieces will not only capture, but further push towards a movement of profound progressive change. Warmly enriching everybody who touches it, creativity is a democratic force where the intuitive work inspires the artist as they produce and stimulates enlightened dialogue from those who then observe. Today a prolific oil painter, Natasha talked generally on her work: “my rudimentary training was in drawing, and we were always taught the importance of accurately representing what was directly there. The foundation is in the detail. When attempting to render a chair, for example, you wouldn’t draw the whole piece of furniture to start. You examine the object, absorbing every side: its dimensions; what it is actually made of. You have to understand what it is you’re creating – what exactly are you trying to say?”

Indeed, an attentive connection to the immediate at once evokes authentic feeling: another trait that differentiates Natasha’s empathetic international images. “For me, it is just as much about encapsulating the experience as etching a precise physical representation, and essentially, colour is mood.” Indeed, across her vast work, you might spot an orange backdrop reflecting simple contentment such as in the piece, Going Home, or the contemplative blue of a plain shirt against the clamorous red of a Coco-Cola insignia to emphasise surfacing moments of still power despite the hustle and bustle of industrial urban life in painting: Your Move. “Such vividness speaks to the old Indian ethos of RASA which runs across not only literature, music and painting, but also dance and generally the arts.” Natasha summarised: “Ultimately, my broad portfolio consists of two arms. I focus on simple and complex portrayals of people interacting with architectural place, from village houses and carvings to the grandeur of bigger wonders, while also introspectively unravelling the many layers that constitute me: my identity so to speak.

 In this way, applying creative vision to the compelling scenes of India was in my blood! My painting is rooted in exploring my mixed heritage as a British-Indian woman e.g. I often think I could have easily been the individual I’m perceiving and vice versa.” As a young girl, Natasha grew up “shuttling to and from India” from where her father originated and inherited the artistic fervour from her mother’s side who were British. “Much of my painterly technique has also developed here in Britain as a result e.g., my grandfather was head of an art school, the Royal Academy, taking on people to teach fine drawing. In my work, everything is centred on reduction and getting to the essence of personal truth. It can be seen as a study of the changing landscape of the Indian subcontinent, embracing the chaos and confusion of the everyday streets to perhaps prompt a brighter future. I do have a series on Indian lorries which are waiting to be released! They’re very playfully tongue-in-cheek – I enjoy taking inspiration from excitement and the flashes of moments”.

Over the last decade, Natasha has especially spotlighted women to show windows into a subtler persistent world: “stepwells, especially in Palaces, are intrinsically tied to women. They are both public and private domains, built by women for women. They are also integral to the survival of a village almost as if religious temples. Again, this is real India. The themes of my collections follow on from the many different humanistic stories e.g., Ideas; Colour.” Aptly transcending even her own vision then, Natasha negotiates more than just geographic equilibrium to promote an underlying universal order. Indeed, her ultimately reconciliatory paintings often contain telling groups of three: “yes, multiples are recurrent throughout my pieces and the trio timelessly represents harmony.” As a contemplative artist, she not only evokes the societal freedom of the West, but at once celebrates the community and spontaneity within developing South-Asia to a wider holistic end: "There's definitely an overarching elegance to my work." Adeptly engaging with the way wider space interconnects with multifarious life, she finally taps into the integrative energy of the collective spirit. Emanating cosmopolitan balance, the painter’s work consummately consolidates as it awes. “As opposed to chasing financial success, one must remain true: this is what makes a talented artist,” and indeed an infinitely flourishing self. 

Natasha’s work can usually be found at the affordable art fairs in Cheltenham and Battersea. She will be launching an online exhibition for charity in April for Art for Cure: “we have to be aware of the virus, but let’s not forget the ongoing fight against Breast Cancer.” Indeed, health is immediately holistic!


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