Art and food are two sides of the same coin for artist Niladri Paul. For Niladri, it's the same route of creativity that takes him to his two loves of his life. Just like he leafs through the pages of ancient texts on Indian art traditions, as part of his research to create paintings soaked in Indian culture, he scours markets for spices.

Niladri Paul talks of food and art with the same verve. During the course of conversation, one realises that the artist known for his dancing figures, even practices the two with equal passion. “Yes, everyday on my way back home from the studio, I think about a new dish to cook that night and what all spices it would require. Then, I buy those and head home,” reveals Niladri over a Mexican lunch at Sancho's in Connaught Place.

For Niladri, it's the same route of creativity that takes him to his two loves of his life. Just like he leafs through the pages of ancient texts on Indian art traditions, as part of his research to create paintings soaked in Indian culture, he scours markets for spices, travels to places known for gastronomical delights and collects recipes. “Just on my recent trip to Kutch, I learnt to make Arbi patte rolls,” tells Niladri.

It, then, comes as no surprise, when he shares with us his dream of opening a restaurant some day. “It could even be a TV show or a movie. I have a number of recipes which suit the fast-paced lives of today. Once you go in the kitchen, all it will take is just ten minutes, and you won't need to keep going back there,” says the artist munching the crispy nachos served with five salsas — pico de gallo, chipotle, mango, habanero salsa. The smokey flavour in the roasted tomato sauce salsa, however, impresses him the most.

Emotional expressions

Sipping on a chilled kiwi margarita, Niladri talks about his series of art works inspired by theatre that will be exhibited at Visual Arts Gallery in September. While this alumnus of Govt. College of Arts and Crafts, courted human anatomy, rhythm and movement on his canvases, his new oeuvre, lays emphasis on the emotional expressions. The collection borrows from Gitinatya or the musical drama. “A collage of colours overlapping each other paints the vivid emotions and the lines have become less definite. The figures are more languid. The colour palette has changed dramatically and incorporates fuschia pink, dazzling blue, lemon yellow and parrot green. While the theme is Indian, the application of colours is very contemporary,” says Niladri.

The refreshing kiwi fruit based cocktail also strikes a chord with Niladri, whose Mexican repertoire includes a number of cocktails and exotic salsa sauces. Colours enter his canvas by careful design and planning but when it comes to food he invariably ends up picking up dishes that are bright in colours. It's not always been so unconscious.

Relating a hilarious incident that dates back to his hostel time spent in the arts college of Kolkata, he says, “We used to make egg curry. Now, to have that particular colour which an egg curry is supposed to have, I would even put red poster colour.”

It's ironical that while his palate is more than keen to try out global flavours, his paintings remain essentially Indian in nature. “Yes, because I want my work to have a distinct identity. Everybody is doing digital work, photo-realistic work and I don't want to get lost there,” opines the artist adding that proximity to Santiniketan, a cultural hub and a fair amount of consistent exposure to the performing traditions like ‘Jaatra' in his own home town in West Bengal also contributed to the cause.

Moving on to the platter which has vegetable quesadillas, beans sopes, moelletes, habanero chicken wings wins over his heart. “I like the flavour of oregano in it and the chicken is nicely coated,” assesses the foodie in Niladri.

Chicken fajita rolls in the main course is followed by yet another platter, this time of desserts though; churros, three milk cake, coconut flan and cajeta crepes. His pick: the elegant dessert combining coconut and caramel. Just a perfect ending for a spicy meal.