Kavita has experimented with various mediums in her artistic journey and loves discovering the expressive strengths of each art form.
Long, leisurely hours of rummaging through old photographs, paper cuttings and dusty magazines and catalogues in her aunt’s home in her childhood is a memory Kavita Iyengar holds very dear. It was then that she developed a deep love for the tactile appeal of paper and the visual power of photographs. Years later, she became an economist by profession. But her strong aesthetic instincts prompted her to take up art seriously. Her latest collection, to be exhibited the coming week in the capital, is a series of collages wrought from recycled papers. She feels collage as an art form has a lot of potential that is yet to be explored in India, and the silver lining is that young graphic designers are giving it a whole new interesting dimension with their digital collages.
Kavita has experimented with various mediums in her artistic journey and loves discovering the expressive strengths of each art form. She loves the unique look and appeal of collages. “I love the freedom, the layering of thoughts, the plethora of hues, and grain and feel of paper, that making collages offers. For me, collages, interestingly, bring together a variety of very diverse images that, together, tell a story. I liked the idea of assembling visually appealing material which conjure up emotions in me and for others who see the final work. It began with my visits to my aunt’s home in Mumbai in my childhood. She used to keep stacks of old pictures from magazines, catalogues, and prints that she didn’t want to throw away. I loved rummaging through them. One day, I thought of constructing something with them that we could keep and view, instead of it being stashed away. Thus began my collages.
People appreciated them a lot. Then in 2014, for a festival in Santiniketan, I made an artist submission, and hey asked me to participate and display the collages. So, I thought of building on the few I had made and having a solo show,” she recalls.
This collection on display is not restricted to a singular theme. There is a wide array of subjects, expressed through a large spectrum of hues in the palette. There are many moods at play, as also a richness of textures. “Fantasy, texture, colours prompted me to make what I have made. Beautiful things I see around me like gardens and birds, monuments and buildings, and also thoughts and relationships entered my canvas,” she says.
Economics and art don’t quite make the most natural of companions. But for Kavita, who is an economist by profession and an artist by passion, both team up to define her. She was always interested in art, even during her schooldays. But went on to do her BA in Economics from Lady Shri Ram College, MA from JNU, and PhD from Clark University in the US. “But all along, I used to doodle during classes as a student, and later at meetings. I had sketchbooks and paints with me, and would occasionally make things to put up in my room or gift to friends and family. I loved visiting museums when I traveled and art shows where I lived. At my last job in Oxford University Press, I enjoyed working with the designer Sumita Kathuria, and learnt much of my art appreciation from her,” she says.
Reading is one of her passions, and that is where at times ideas for her art stem from. She says, “I see images when I read. I read and think of what I want to illustrate. I have done a book of pen and ink drawings of Delhi. I have illustrated a Bengali translation of Maya Angelou’s poetry by Nanda Mamata in London, which should be out soon. However, with the collages, I begin with a base or a particular image that has caught my fancy, and around that the story starts building on its own. It is a journey by itself, and a very spontaneous process.”
Among the pantheon of greats in Indian art, Kavita admires traditional masters Jamini Roy and Benod Behari Mukherjee. She loves the free-spiritedness of Ara and Krishen Khanna, and Hebbar’s fluid lines and Prabha’s stately women. She also admires Sri Lankan artist Barbara Sansoni’s line drawings and Bangladeshi artist Abdus Shakoor’s folk-art based works.
The exhibition, ‘Montage — an exhibition of intricate collages’, will help ?raise? funds for Salaam Baalak Trust, an NGO working for street children in Delhi NCR. From 17- 21 January, at Gallery 1AQ, Qutab Minar, Mehrauli