IT’S pretty clear that art is in Natasha Kumar’s blood. Even though both her parents – her mother is English and father Indian – are both academics in cancer research and all three brothers are doctors, Kumar chose to become an artist. Looking closely though, one does not have to look far to see where her inspiration has come from.
From her mother’s side she comes from a long line of noted English artists; her uncle, Pip Todd Warmoth and her grandfather Peter Todd were both internationally acclaimed.
From an early age, however, Kumar wanted to make sure she carved her own identity. At 17, her first major piece of work was shown at the prestigious Royal Academy just below entries by her grandfather and uncle. Two decades on and she has since excelled as a printmaker; an art form consisting of the production of images, usually on paper but occasionally on fabric, parchment and plastic, and has gone from a first class degree at Manchester to studying in Venice at the Accadamia.
Next Wednesday (13) she will be exhibiting her new collection on RASA: Essence of India, at the Royal Geographical Society in south west London.
“This particular exhibition is about breaking things down to their essence,” she told Eastern Eye.
“There are colours in India which are not obvious when you think of India immediately. It’s a splash of pigment on a temple wall, it’s the movement of sari when a women turns into the light. It’s about mood, feeling and taste.
“With me there’s this weird balance of very traditional figurative English art and then influences from India, which hits you from all angles and gets under your skin.”
The 38-year-old whose work is represented in private and national collections worldwide, tries to go to India at least once a year, because that’s where she feels her “voice” is.
“I was bought up mostly as an English girl, but have been to India many times.
“It does take a long time to find your voice and work out what you want to do. There are so many pressures from galleries, from personal associations, art school and pressure to produce work in different ways. It isn’t until you find your voice that you say ‘dammit I’m going to enjoy it now’.”
It was while Kumar was travelling on the train in India with her aunt that her view of the country had changed.
“I was wearing semi-Western clothes opposite a woman who was wearing those heavy brass necklaces one on of top the other going up the neck. I was staring at her and she was staring at me. Through my Indian aunt I was saying ‘who is she?’ and ‘what is she wearing?’ And this woman was asking the same questions about me. We were having this surreal chat and it made me realise we are all the same.
“Indians in sarees are not something you stare at and then photograph and move on. It was quite an important moment in respect of my art. I can’t possibly be a half-Indian artist, doing an Indian subject in the UK, it’s too contrived. I had to immerse myself in Indian culture.”
For her latest work on the RASA exhibition Kumar focuses on the underside of a chhatri, “mini temples” which people also worship.
“These particular chhatri, have got the Islamic dome and the amalgamations of Islamic and Hindu pillars.
“I been drawing these for a while, then literally looked up one afternoon on the underside of the dome, and found these series of concentric circles which went up to a point.”
“As a subject I’ve never done something so conceptual before and taken a single element and broken it down. It’s combining the best of me I suppose. All the figurative, traditional Englishness and all this rich Indian history I’m learning about.”
The RASA: Essense of India exhibition runs until January 23. For more information go to www.natasha kumar.co.uk