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Vandana Kumari: Expressing the Human Condition and Psyche

Vandana Kumari is a young, emerging artist based in Delhi. She completed her BFA and MFA in Painting from the College of Art, New Delhi. Vandana's paintings give an insight into the uniqueness of the human condition and psyche. Her highly expressive works portray her detailed observation of socio-political issues and events that characterize contemporary society. Maintaining a careful balance between sudden explosions of uncontrollable energy and a stabilizing spatial composition, her art transcends the painterly streaks to reveal the truth as she sees it.

She recently held her first Solo Exhibition ‘Truth Revealed’ (2021) curated by Mohan Singh, at Triveni Gallery, New Delhi. Selected in the “States of Disarray: Practice as Restitution” 4th edition of Students’ Biennale (2021) Kochi, she was also selected for the group show of the Art Incept Grant (2021) by Art Pilgrim Live STIR Gallery Chattarpur, New Delhi. She received the International Bronze Award in “Without Borders 2020” instituted by the World University of Design and was a recipient of the AIFACS Award in the 92nd Annual All India Art Exhibition AIFACS (2019). She was given the Merit Award (2019) from the College of Art, Delhi.

Vandana has participated in various group exhibitions including ‘Together With’ (2020) at the College of Art, Open House, organized by the Raza Foundation in collaboration with the College of Art, the AIFACS 10th All India Portrait Exhibition (2019) and ‘Exhibition of Masterworks: Our National Pride II’ organized by NDMC (2018).

1. When did you decide and what prompted you to become an artist? Please give a brief account of your challenges and struggles in your journey as an artist. Any role models?

VK: I’ve had a passion and skill for drawing since childhood. I received my basic art training from my father Vijay Singh, a self-taught commercial artist and drawing teacher (and now retired from the Indian Air Force). From an early age, I received many awards and appreciation of my drawing and painting which inspired me to follow my passion as an artist.

Since I was also good at school academics, I was prompted to opt for science, mathematics and computers and also prepare for engineering colleges. But I soon realized that following my passion would give me the ultimate satisfaction. I did not want to be one of the huge crowds of people who blindly follow a similar path to sustain their lives. In the same year I cleared the entrance exam to the College of Art, which was a turning point in my life. The decision was so quick that everyone in my family was offended but later they came around; my father supported me most. Finally, I passed with distinction in BFA Painting (2015-2019) where my drawing skills and art became bolder and more confident. I will soon complete my Master’s this year from the same college with the able guidance of my mentor Shri Mohan Singh. My curiosity to learn and experiment with new things has always supported me to take on different challenges.

2. What art project(s) are you working on currently? What is your inspiration or motivation for this?

VK: Currently, my main artistic concern revolves around social causes and the juxtaposition of the human condition with issues of violence, disparity between the poor and rich, human suffering, harassment, political mobilization, violence triggers, riots and crass materialism.

To me painting is a synthesis of my feelings and observing struggles, reactions and inspirations to explore the underpinnings of human psyche. My current practice explores personal narratives, psychological processing of everyday socio-political issues and occurrences, people's reactions, and their daily life struggles with the circumstances they live in. I’m a keen and sensitive observer and document the cathartic escapades as observation and experience, and create works that are reflective of and characterize contemporary society. Using the narrative potential of figurative painting. I challenge the viewers and confront them with their innermost feelings. My human figures are a subjective portrait of human psyche that reveals something about the subject, but they are open to many interpretations as they are enigmatic most of the time.

I think art should have the capability to depict everyday reality. Art can be both a positive or negative force and bring about change. However, personally, I believe that a part of artistic practice has a social responsibility towards the audience and in that sense my art thematic can enable the viewers to become aware of crucial social issues, deconstruct social boundaries and thus contribute to a positive change in society.

Deeply Affected, 26 inches x 32 inches, Acrylic on canvas, 2021

Intolerance, 54 inches x 48 inches, Acrylic on canvas, 2020

Self-assurance, 48 inches x 54 inches, Acrylic on canvas, 2021

Three Vultures and Society, 54 inches x 48 inches, Acrylic on canvas, 2020

Crisis- I, 30 inches x 24 inches, Acrylic on canvas, 2021

Crisis- II, 30 inches x 24 inches, Acrylic on canvas, 2021

Alluring Eyes, 11 inches x 8 inches, Acrylic on paper, 2020

In Deep Fantasy, 60 inches x 54 inches, Acrylic on canvas, 2020

Keen Eyesight, 60 inches x 54 inches, Acrylic on canvas, 2021

3. Contemporary art has become very diverse and multidisciplinary in the last few decades. Do you welcome this trend? Is this trend part of your art practice?

VK: Yes, I do welcome all multidisciplinary art trends because they have broadened the boundaries of what art is supposed to be; the impact of technology has increased people engagement and made art a more participatory experience. I enjoy exploring new mediums and digital technology; new possibilities are emerging though I prefer the direct physical involvement of applying colour with my brush and hand because I feel more connected to larger canvases.

I’ve worked on digital painting projects on the life of Guru Nanak under the aegis of Charuvi Design Labs, Gurugram. I have also illustrated 20 book covers of old Arabic Islamic history – a digital project from Syria.

4. Does art have a social purpose or is it more about self-expression?

VK: Art is more about self-expression and conveying a social message is an additional quality – both are somehow deeply connected because artists themselves belong to society. They express their thoughts and capture the essence of what they perceive from their surroundings and paint the purest thoughts and confront the canvas with their subconscious mind. Visual art has a strong impact on the development of society. Art not only provides pleasure and creative inspiration but it is one of the most powerful tools of communication since it brings forth important issues to the eyes of the public and fosters a dialogue with them. Creative thinking for social change can come from politicians, economists or business leaders just as it can come from musicians, writers and visual artists.

Truth Revealed, 48 inches x 24 inches, Iron wire (welding) with red flowers (installation), 2021

5. Where do you create your art (workplace / studio)? What is your process?

VK: As I’m still in college, I’ve been painting in my master’s class studio space at the College of Art, New Delhi, and in my home. I also work at Kaladham Studios, Greater Noida with a group of art students and my artist friends.

I like to paint with acrylics, so that I can play with colours with multiple layers to get the desired effect. I initially start with a more colourful application but as the composition develops the whole painting turns more monochromatic with greys and blues. My canvases are never planned through sketches or preparatory drawings. The composition on each canvas develops spontaneously and I keep working on it till the painting tells me it’s done. Generally, I prefer larger canvases and attack colours with an effective forceful and bold brushstroke which alone is capable of triggering deep inner emotions. Besides that, I do loads of charcoal drawings and ink study on paper.

6. To what extent will the world of art change in the post-Covid period – both in terms of what is created as also the business of art?

VK: Everything is becoming virtual; art markets are expanding online. Artists are switching their mediums due to the lockdown and limitation of materials. Collaboration works are active on online platforms. Galleries are increasing their online presence. We can expect to see more online marketplaces, viewing rooms, virtual exhibitions and sales via social media. Dealers will have to engage in virtual selling to survive. The digital world is a very populist force, levelling the world between the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated. Technology is helping them introduce more audiences to art and spark conversations between diverse communities and even on a global scale.

Being an art practitioner, the pandemic time was really productive for me. I got more time to produce expressive works that portray the real human condition trapped between the crisis and current happenings.

7. Tell us about any other interest you may have besides your art practice. Does it get reflected

in your art?

VK: Besides my art practice, I do photography, videography and document people’s lives, their struggles, the conditions in which they live. Knowing the various views of people and educing stories from articles and journals inspire me to paint. I travel, observe and learn.

So Tired of Living, Photography

(All images are courtesy of the artist, Vandana Kumari)


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