Posed for Posterity
She is pretty as a picture herself, in her cotton lace shift that spells cool on this hot summer day. Nawaz Modi Singhania, artist and fitness expert, is ready to talk about her recent solo art exhibition held at her husband, Gautam Singhania’s flagship Raymond Showroom at Mumbai’s Breach Candy. This is in fact her sixth solo exhibition and she has earlier tackled paintings on the themes of dance, movement and spirituality. This time, the viewer is mesmerised by 32 portrait studies in acrylics and oil. A screaming Mick Jagger, an angry McEnroe, a happy Oprah Winfrey, a preening Tom Cruise…Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Roger Federer, Marilyn Monroe, Albert Einstein…. They seem to have been caught in moments of passion, all of them. And this, in fact, has been the challenge.
Nawaz was attracted to the technique of portrait painting largely due to the scientific calculations, study, skill and precision required. She rattles off the proportions and dimensions of any face, adding, “It is all very scientifically pre-ordained. It is only the slight changes that make the difference in each person’s face. With portraits, you have to get it 100 per cent right.” And, of course, getting the likeness as well as the emotion makes it that much more challenging.
Creative even as a child, Nawaz is currently painting only commissions. What will she do next? “I don’t like repetitious work,” she says, admitting that she does not know where the mood for the next collection will take her. “But I do know that I do not like abstracts at all. I have very negative feelings about them.” So we will just have to wait and watch then, won’t we?
When did you get into portraiture?
This is the first time I’ve taken up portrait study seriously.
What do you look for in the person that you paint?
In this collection it has been personalities that I related to, looked up to or was drawn to in some way. They had to have impressed upon me in one way or another.
How do you choose your subjects? Which one of your works is your personal favourite?
Once I decided upon a personality, I sought images of theirs which had been widely published – and then I wanted to give them my own rendition. My personal favourite of this collection was the David Beckham one. You can’t always say
why – art is like that. It either clicks with you completely in the moment, or it just doesn’t. You can’t always dissect it.
Why are there no Indians among the portraits in your recent exhibition?
Perhaps in the future there’ll be.
Where do you paint? How long do you take over a canvas?
I have a couple of studios in South Mumbai. Typically a canvas would take me approximately 10 days.
Which are the artists that inspire you?
I appreciate many aspects of many artists. For instance I love Raja Ravi Varma’s portraits, Bikash Bhattacharya’s play of shadows, Bose Krishnamachari’s sense of colour and fluidity, much about Prosanto Roy, and so on.
When you travel, which are the museums/galleries/portrait galleries that you have to visit? Is there a painting that you must go look at?
Some of my favourite works of art and places I would love to visit and revisit whenever I can would include Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo at the Louvre, Paris; masterpieces by Michelangelo, Botticelli and Raphael at the Uffizi, Florence; the Night Watch by Rembrandt in Amsterdam; Water Lilies by Claude Monet and the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. When in London I often make it a point to visit the Tate Modern and The National Gallery.
Has your life with fitness inspired your art in any way?
Very much so! The subjects I choose to paint have everything to do with my orientation in fitness and the way I’m mentally wired as a result.
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