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Artist Profile2
Parvathi Nayar’s art with a social agenda
Parvathi Nayar’s art practice largely revolves around drawing and painting; conceptually it is rooted in ideas of narrative, at different ways of looking, perceiving and the privileging of sight. The artist elaborates: “I explore ideas of the daily narrative of our lives in this world through fragmentary, familiar and unfamiliar perspectives – with a keen attention to technique in the eventual resolution of the work, so that the subject of a work is both its content and manner in which it’s portrayed.”

What apparently has been a continuous thread, fragmentation surfaces as means of depicting the experience of surviving in the world: invariably incomplete and suggestive of an extended frame beyond. This, in terms of execution, may take several forms: fracturing the image; incorporating many fragmented images into one single frame; painting a part of the narrative/ image onto single frame/s; or perhaps selecting a fragment of it to render skillfully.

After years of collecting a wide range of material, thoughts and ideas without any particular motive, Parvathi Nayar at a given point makes up her mind to delve deep into existentialist moments. She explains in an interview: "It was not really with a specific purpose I was collecting things. It all just fell into place; an amalgamation of the intriguing cultural milieu and facets of life." In the process, she touches upon a plethora of topics and themes like roads; they are ubiquitous points of reference, of connection, arteries, yet a 'non-subject'.

At one level, she is interested in fathoming the loss of identity and co-related transition in the complex socio-economical urbanscape, an outcome of several factors like the burgeoning capital economy, hastening the goods and commodity flow; globalization and the migration. She has stated: “We seldom think of how it’s defined by roads that occupy a high percentage of land in any nation. They are ubiquitous points of reference, of connection, arteries, but yet a 'non-subject'.”

Born in 1964 in New Delhi, Parvathi Nayar completed a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art (Distinction) from Stella Maris College. She traveled to London on a Chevening Scholarship courtesy the British government, to join Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design (2003–04). She received a master's degree in Fine Art there.

Among her major shows and participations are ‘The Art of Giving’, The Arts House, Singapore (2008); ‘Win Lose Draw’, ARTSingapore 2007, ‘Innerscapes’, ‘Song of India’ and “Drawing is a Verb’ (all three in Singapore); ‘The Art of a Woman’ ‘Flowers, Faces, Feelings’, and ‘Journey’ (all three in Jakarta – 1996, ‘97, ‘98); ‘Drawing Out Conversations’, FOST Gallery, Singapore (2008); ‘Af-fair’, 1x1 Art Gallery, Dubai (2008); ‘Soft Spoken’, Jehangir Nicholson Gallery, Mumbai (2007); Langgeng Contemporary Art Festival, Jakarta (2006); CP Biennale II, Jakarta (2005); ‘location/locality’ at Diorama gallery, London (2005); ‘Small is Beautiful’, Familiofiumano Gallery in London (2004); ‘Unfinished’, London College of Printing (2004); ‘Zodiac: A Confluence of East & West’; ‘Time Cycles’, ‘Pulp Friction’, ‘A Passage Through India’, and ‘Woman and the Elements’ (all in Singapore; year 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, and 1994 respectively).

The artist was part of a significant show of six women artists selected by Bose Krishnamachari, entitled ‘Soft Spoken’. Taking magnified and microscopic views of objects like muscles or skin, her work showcased was both epic and intimate; body cells, the human eye, moon craters, city lights seen from a microscopic lens apparently referred the larger cosmic macrocosm. Executed in pencil against wood, her black & white works exuded the austere minimalism for evoking the curious notion of ‘how the whole universe is within the body…right from the subatomic to the terrestrial. Mention also must be made of her series of pencil drawings on gessoed wood courtesy Arts House, which questioned the way we tend to look at our world and explore the creative act of drawing itself as well, comprised three connected series of drawings, swinging between ambiguity and familiarity, unveiling both - the world we know and also the one as we are explained it really is, by scientists.

On the other hand, her ‘Sing The Body Electric’, site-specific installation of drawings in collaboration with architect Dhruti Vaidya, incorporates a maze - an imaginative representation of the womb. The abstract feel in the realistic representations of the biological process is among the many contrasts at play here. It draws from a variety of literary sources and cultural aspects she has been a part of. She taps the theory of endless possibilities besides the end result to something, which could have taken life to a different direction. This elaborate work transforms the gallery space into the feminine reproductive tract; a labyrinth that reflects the passage depicted in her deft drawings.

In essence, this sensitive artist juxtaposes the satire and the profundity of life as she looks to capture the power and potential of women. In the process, her artistic vision comes to the fore with mellifluous beauty and mystic.