Parvathi Nayar calls herself a contemporary DJ of art. She remixes a martial arts movie with a ‘dishum dishum' stuff to create an altogether new artistic language

In 2008 Parvathi Nayar's painting ‘Firelight’ was selected to be featured on ABN Amro's Dil Se platinum credit card. The first work on the card was by M.F. Husain and the second was hers!

Parvathi downplayed her achievement and said, ‘It was a lucky break'. But it takes more than luck. It requires talent to get noticed in the art field where seniority and years of work position an artist (besides other parameters). Now, young and beautiful Parvathi has created a proven space internationally.

Parvathi, who has recently migrated back to India from Singapore and lives in Chennai, was the only artist to be invited to create an installation of drawings at the ARTSingapore Art Fair in 2007, where 75 per cent of her works were sold. Her works are in the collections of the Singapore Art Museum, Sotheby's Art Institute and Deutsche Bank. In India it was Bose Krishnamachari, “an inspirational figure,” who gave her the first break. But much before that it was her art teacher at Convent of Jesus and Mary, New Delhi, Mrs. Rao, who seemed to see real talent in her doodles.

As a child it was plain doodling that occupied her, recalls Parvathi. She credits her diverse interest in theatre, writing, research and art to inspirational teachers she was fortunate to have in primary schools, such as Sushma Seth for elocution, John Barry for theatre and Mrs. Rao for art. “She used to send me for all art competitions and I wondered what she saw in those doodles?” As an artist, Parvathi herself seems to see beyond the surface of an artwork. Her shows are in-depth researched expressions that move from surface to subterranean zones, imparting an infinite mystery, what she calls the “poetry of science.”

Has Kerala, her home State, been an inspiration behind her singular expression? “My art is very much an expression of who I am. While I may not draw coconut trees, the detailing of light and dark through palm frond tracery is an impression that percolates in my art. Kerala is not obvious but it is the root. It is what shapes and influences.”

In addition to Kerala, Parvathi draws her creative streak from her mother Sathi Nayar. from the Thottakat family Her mother's art was centred on faces and figures and her talent was spotted by Raja Rama Varma (son of Ravi Varma) under whom she studied art for a year, says Parvathi. Her great grandfather and grandmother, who did watercolours, are part of her artistic heritage. Her father Maj General (retd) TNR Nayar from the Thirukode family was more into literature and music. Creativity thus has melded in her from both sides.

Parvathi's artistic language is novel. It is a product of the immense research she does alongside a work. Calling herself a contemporary DJ of art, her latest works draw influences not just from the basic art tools but a lot more. Now as an art DJ, she is remixing from the fantastic tool kit that she has before her. She relishes hybrid imagery in her work, a series on film, for example, that indulges in “the mixing of a martial art film from Hong Kong with a dishum -dishum movie from India,” and also furnishes her images with a tactile quality.

“The quality of the haptic or touch is an important part of the work,” she says, explaining how texture is a vital cue in her conversations with the audience.

Drawings, traditionally, couldn't occupy the airspace of the viewer. But with her specially created “sculptural” drawings – drawn on cuboids of wood (as in Sensory Dialogues) Parvathi's works have an immediacy and direct relationship with the viewers.

This quest to connect with the audience lends her a special artistic lingo.

“Art is a dialogue and you are required to speak in today's language,” she says

Science forms a major part of her behind-the-work scene. “Science at its deepest level is a form of philosophy. It is an examination of what is happening around as in Drawing is a verb: an installation- graphite images on wooden blocks.”

In her show, ‘Cinema Verite Redux' - Black and White- Forensic Cinema and False Truths-she blends cinema, biology and technology aesthetically.

Parvathi is actively into reviewing theatre and writing on art. She has written plays too and has co-curated a show with activist-artist Caspar Below at the Nehru Centre, London, (2005) asite-specific show based on the idea of democracy as espoused by Nehru.

She is putting upsome works at an upcoming group show by women artists in Delhi. Ask her about the label- ‘women artists', and she says that at one point of time women needed a platform to showcase their work, but now gender in art does not matter. “Still it is a hard won turf,” she acknowledges.

At present, her one and a half year-old-daughter, Ananya, is subtly influencing her art.

With shades of colour appearing in her predominantly black, and whiteartscape, Parvathi agrees that Ananya may have something to do with it.

Defining her oeuvre as “deeply felt, extensively researched and sensitively rendered narratives that operate as incomplete stories,” she believes in holding a one-sided dialogue, waiting for it to be completed by the viewer. Parvathi revels in this art chat with her audience.

Parvathi Nayar can be contacted at


Stretching the canvasAugust 26, 2010

The call of the murals September 7, 2010

Nature, caught on cameraSeptember 5, 2010

Putting stars up thereSeptember 9, 2010