An artistic exchange with Neha Talwar
Weaving a conversation on art.
Neha, ever since she could recollect, has always leaned freely and deeply towards art; she began drawing at the age of five and painted at seven. When she was nine years old, she started recreating Baroque art of Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Vermeer for her family in Moga, Punjab; her family was extremely supportive of her passion. Soon, she developed her style and technique, which included paintings on textiles that added a surrealistic element to her work. Having stated that, it was under the guidance of Mr Rameshwar Broota at the Triveni Kala Sangam in Delhi that Neha learned the intricacies of visual art, which thereafter led to more profound comprehension and development of her style.
Neha works with textile as her canvas, she creates her artwork on them. Through this medium, her artworks portray a journey narrated by the textiles, a nostalgic captivation of characters that inhabit the fabric. Her quest, through her work, remains to highlight the possible concomitance amongst the humans and the textiles, the confluence of the inanimate and the animate, the inorganic and the organic, as well as the known and the unknown. A layered approach, the fabric in her work takes the human form to reflect human values, impressions of gender equality, the abstraction of passion, expressions of poverty, and more. She wholesomely uses natural pigments from the vast flora and at times, she handpicks them from her neighbourhood to create patterns and forms in her artwork.
Oil on Textile - Image Courtesy Neha Talwar
Through my conversation with Neha, I questioned her about her expectations from a certain artwork; if there was scope for impulsively allowing oneself to be creative. She responded saying that she follows a simple process, where she controls the controllable and creates small compositions of drawings with what she aims to achieve. Furthermore, through the software on her computer, she creates a few compositions to finally arrive at a theme. Thereafter, she handpicks a textile that will perfectly suit the essential elements of that painting. Even before she tangibly begins working on her artwork, she has a clear idea, wherein the perspectives, the dimensions, the abstractions, the patterns, and the form are concerned. She meticulously works to achieve the desired result, but in the procedure, unmistakably every time, the impulse takes over.
I get lost in the artwork as it talks to me, guides me, empowers me, in fact completely takes over my artistic instinct. I feel as if I have not created this art but the art has created itself. It’s magical and that is why I love to create art... It’s a beautiful process!
Oil on Textile - Image Courtesy Neha Talwar
AA: Was painting on textile a conscious decision or was it something you arrived at after working with several mediums?
NT: Back in the day, I worked with many mediums to create novelty on my canvas. I tried different techniques with oil, acrylic, and watercolours to achieve the desired results, but it was just not happening. I was rejecting and discarding most of my artworks. I kept trying, but the result remained the same, maybe I was trying too hard. Then one fine day, I was lying down in my mother’s lap and playing with the pattern of flowers on the sari that she was wearing. I could feel the warmth, the aroma, the feeling of my mother’s love, and in the exact moment, it occurred to me, if this fabric can evoke such a feeling of love in my heart, maybe it's God’s will to guide me into painting on it. After a few months of research on ‘how can I use oil paint on textiles’, I created my first painting on one of my mother’s discarded sari. It was a masterpiece for my family and a masterstroke for me which still adorns the living room of my parent’s house.
Drawing & Embroidery on Textile - Image Courtesy Neha Talwar
AA: You were trained in fashion and textile design, how did this lead to painting? Are there certain disciplines from fashion that you also apply to your artworks?
NT: Fashion is an ever-evolving industry. Having gone through the course, opened a new creative world for me as an artist. The patterns, the textures, the materials used, the pallets, all keep expanding and maturing each day, helping the productive pursuits and multiplying the features of my art constantly. Important aspects of Fashion Design that I incorporated in my art are attention to detail and working with diversity on my canvas. I worked with indigenous artisans of India to learn new abilities like Punjab’s Phulkari, Lucknow’s Chikankari, Bengal’s Nakshi Kantha, Bagru hand-block printing technique in Rajasthan, and Pipli appliqué work from Odisha among other such traditional styles. Today, I try to integrate these skills into my artistry as I believe that creativity knows no bounds. Long into our conversation, I asked Neha if any contemporary artists work with textiles that she looks up to. She responded profoundly saying that whenever she meets contemporary artists, she always tries to learn from them. The processes, the techniques, the thoughts, the deliverable, and so much more. The multi-dimensional approach of artists, today, amazes and inspires her to
learn more and eventually create more art for the world. She especially admires Karen Nicol’s diligent and conscientious art of textile design. Neha also shared that she was working on a new technique to create fabric sculptures motivated by Nicol’s artistry.
Simply keep learning, keep creating, never fail to experiment but always be on a lookout for God’s will to guide you. Don’t be the next Leonardo Da Vinci, but be the first someone.
- Neha’s message to young artists
AA: Would you be able to tell us more about Glimpses of Neverland and how all the artworks for this solo show panned out for you? What was the process of working on this solo exhibition?
NT: Glimpses of Neverland is an ode to Romanticism. It was a passionate feminine metaphor for eternal childhood, immortal motherhood, and an escapist wife. It was an intriguing experiment with colours, shapes, textures, and patterns. It was the first time when I had introduced memories as objects and forms as subjects to recreate the innocence of fairy tales with sardonic undertones that posed strange questions. The paintings emphasized more on the gestures, light, and compositions, creating an ingenious figment of my imagination.
By God’s grace, the show was appreciated and well-received, encouraging me, and paving my way further into the experimentation in the world of art.
The discussion on her solo exhibition then led us to speak about Neha’s belief that ‘Complex emotions can stem from the Simplest Forms’. Neha believes that the colour in its simplest form, when added to a texture or an object, can invoke a complex human feeling. She quoted an example from one of her on-going international projects that were inspired by the art of Expressionism in which she is trying to transform paintings with sunlight and its spectrum that fall on textiles. She goes on to explain that no paint is used in these paintings. The spectrum keeps changing colour at different times of the day, the texture of the textile creates a form for the viewer subjecting varied feelings in the subconscious. The emotions evolve with the colour, sometimes with the colour change and sometimes because of the lack of it. From anger to compassion to joy to envy, and so forth. In some paintings, she adds colour to the textile, which forces the observer to imagine colours that are not there, creating even more complex emotions.
Embroidery & Ink on Khadi Textile - Image Courtesy Neha Talwar
We concluded our conversation with Neha’s next solo exhibition, which is an ode to Indo-European craftsmanship (scheduled to take place in Germany but is delayed because of the pandemic). For this show, she has worked on paintings with pure rust and prehistoric natural dyes on Khadi, juxtaposed with post-impressionistic lenticular design patterns. We also spoke about the shift/growth from her solo exhibition in 2014, where she maintains that her main focus in the upcoming exhibition is her artistic projects and installations, centred around inventing artworks about necessary social developments around the world.
As an artist, it was the need of the hour for me to grow and diversify my thought process to help the creative fringe of the society in articulating a collective will of freedom and virtuous living with a corrected use of tools and technology.