The Interview : Kiran Soni Gupta
(Rachna Singh in conversation with Kiran Sonia Gupta)
The Wise Owl talks to Kiran Soni Gupta, a prolific artist, writer, curator sculptor and avid photographer. Kiran, an artist-bureaucrat, has won many awards for her artwork. Her paintings on ‘Famine’ won her the National Award. Her artworks, ‘Pooja Times’ and ‘Shelters,’ were exhibited at the Louvre, Paris in 2012, 2013 and 2017. She has been honoured with ‘Indian Iconic Women’s Award 2019, Literary Excellence Award at the 4th Asiad LitFest, National Gaurav Award 2017 and Fakhre-e-Hind Award 2018. She has also been awarded the Swasti Samman 2013, International Vaish Sammelan Award 2013, Unnat Bharat Sewashri Damini Award 2013, Rajasthan Gaurav Award 2013, Nari Pratibha Samman 2012, Kala Samridhi Award in 2010, Artist of the Year 2009, Special Achiever Award 2009 and Kala Shiromani Award 2008. She was decorated with the Global Women Achiever’s Award in 2019. Her books, ‘Range-e-Jahan’ and ‘Empower the Woman Enlighten the World’ were released in 2019. The Times of India has brought out a trilogy of books ‘Beyond Strokes’, ‘Kiran’s Art Renderings’ and ‘Women-God’s Finest Creation’ based on her artwork themes.
Kiran has been associated with encouraging the growth of Art in India. She conceptualized, curated and organized Jaipur’s 1st International Art Festival in March 2013 with 130 artists drawn from across the world. The 2nd edition of the Art Festival in 2014 was a resounding success with 240 artists from 24 countries. Recently, she curated an international exhibition at Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, celebrating Indian languages which was exhibited in New Delhi, Mussoorie and Chandigarh. She was invited to organize the Gita Kala Parv at Kurukshetra in 2016 by Government of Haryana and Vigyan Prasar Kala Parv at Indian National Science Academy 2017 by Department of Science & Technology. She also organized International Women’s Art Festival and All India Printmakers Camp in 2020 at Jaipur. She is presently Director of West Zone Cultural Centre under the Ministry of Culture. She was also Director General of Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur a leading visual and performing arts cultural centre in India.
Thank you Ms Kiran Soni Gupta, for taking time out to speak to The Wise Owl.
RS: You are a prolific artist with myriad creative expressions. Our readers and viewers would be curious to know about your creative journey. What inspired you to pick up a paintbrush? What made you extend your creativity to sculpting and photography?
KSG: It was my positive childhood experience which made me turn to art in a big way. My elder sister used to paint. One day when she was away, I decided to pick the brush and paint on paper (which is easy to discard). I left the things as such. On return when my sister discovered the mess she was upset. She asked who had messed up her colors. Very sheepishly I replied. She asked me to show what I had made. I quickly showed her my maiden brush work. It was an image of a bride offering flowers. Her reaction, ‘Oh that is so nice!’, was a big milestone. It assured me ‘yes! I can do it.’ That was the beginning. Later my father would throw subjects to me to paint. I still have some of my very early works at my parents’ house in Ludhiana. Now I realize how encouragement, appreciation and positive reaction can do wonders.
RS: I am also very curious to know which art form is closest to your heart? If you were given a choice, would you rather be a painter or a sculptor or a photographer.
KSG: Painting is my passion, and I would certainly prefer it to any other media. Though as an artist one should understand different media which made me learn graphics, photographing artworks, sculptors, terracotta etc. Painting offers me a very wide field of expression through good compositions, imagination, creativity, colors etc. It is highly personalized way of self-expression.
RS: Have you had any formal training in art forms or the history of art forms? Or would you say you are a self-taught artist?
KSG:I am a self-taught artist with my early interest in art being on account of a wonderful art teacher at school.
RS: You are equally adept at using watercolours, acrylic and oils. Which medium do you enjoy working with the most? Which medium do you find most challenging?
KSG: I do most of my work in Oils and find it very fascinating. However, watercolours is a challenging but very spontaneous and verstile media. It is almost difficult to replicate. Thus, each piece of art becomes unique.
RS: Is your work influenced by any old masters or anyone in the contemporary sphere? If so, what is it about their work that you find mesmerising and attractive.
KSG: Yes, my work has been influenced by many masters like Renoir, Picasso’s cubism, Turner’s impressionistic works. I admire Remembrandt and Constable’s landscapes. Amongst the Indian masters, I loved the works of Nand Lal Bose, Jogen Chaudhry and Thakur Singh from Punjab.
RS: In some of your paintings you have used a technique reminiscent of the pointillism technique developed by George Seurat and Paul Signac. It was a technique used by Vincent Van Gogh in his Self-portrait as well. Are your paintings a conscious adaptation of the technique or was it the artist in you spontaneously experimenting and evolving different styles and techniques?
KSG: Yes, my recent series on Valley of Flowers is based on this technique. It was very spontaneous and unconsciously I moved towards it.
RS: Our readers and viewers would be curious to know (as I am) if your art works are created in a pattern or theme or you paint whatever appeals to your creative senses and only later string them in a theme. Let us talk about your recent exhibition on the theme ‘Conversations with Nature’. Were the paintings, that form a part of the exhibition, painted over a certain time period or were they individual creations over a huge expanse of time and later put together for the exhibition?
KSG: Most of my art is direct from my heart. I paint what I feel like, and the themes encompass nature, portraits, abstracts and realistic too. It is only after I have built a substantive body of works that I put them together as a thematic exhibit.
RS: I notice that most of your paintings are nature based, landscapes, petals, flowers etc. What brought you close to nature and what triggered your desire to paint nature?
KSG: I am an avid traveller and travelling is a great educator. Nature has always touched my heart and has such a great healing power. It comes very naturally to me.
RS: The only exception to your nature paintings, are your paintings that recreate the colourful world of Rajasthan, which you have done in the traditional portrait form as well as Rajasthani abstracts. What made you turn to these forms of paintings?
KSG: I found Rajasthan little dry after spending 5 years in verdant Kerala. But surely that disappointment soon enabled me to catch the beauty in people and portraits. The change from Kerala to Rajasthan led me to painting Rajasthani people with their colourful attire and traditional jewellry. Later I did some abstracts of Rajasthani themes adopting cubism.
RS: One of the categories in which you have exhibited your artwork on your website is ‘cyanotype’ artwork. Can you please throw some light on this form of painting?
KSG:Cyanotype is more of a photographic technique which I learnt in a workshop held at India Habitat Centre in New Delhi. I used images of my artwork to produce these works.
RS: You are a bureaucrat as well as an artist. Did you find it difficult to juggle the onerous duties of a bureaucrat with the call of your Muse? Did the demands of bureaucracy ever fetter your creativity?
KSG: Yes, I have enjoyed both aspects of my life. Many of the themes for my paintings were thrown up in course of my visits to villages and meeting rustic rajasthani farmers. The common quality of a bureaucrat and an artist is to have sensitivity and emphathy. After my painting I came back to my work with double the enthusiasm.
RS: Some of your artworks were exhibited at Louvre, Paris in 2012, 2013 and 2017. Our readers and viewers would be keen to know how your work was selected for such a prestigious show. They would also like to know what thought processes and creative processes went into the art works you submitted for selection in this exhibition.
KSG: I have been very fortunate to exhibit my works at the most visited museum, ‘The Louvre’. SNBA (Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts) does a global exhibition, drawing a work from nearly 700 artists across the globe. It is highly competetive and selective. I had sent my enteries based on the theme and visual appeal of the artowrks. The three works that I exhibited was ‘Pooja times’, ‘Three Generations of Women’ being empowered by NREGA works, and third was on ‘Shelter.’
RS: Perhaps this is not a very fair question to ask as all art works of an artist are equally close to an artist’s heart. But I will still ask you if there is any particular painting which gave you the most creative satisfaction? What was the creative thought process that went into such a painting?
KSG: Each artwork that I have done comes from heart. The inspiration thought process and the outcome all become very important. I have enjoyed painting Rajasthani portraits as I could relate it to meeting people in the course of my work.
RS: I believe you have been auctioning your art in Cambridge to raise funds for food for children and their education. Do you believe that art can play a salutary role in improving society or making it more humane? Given the current commercialization of art do you think it might be a Utopian pipe dream?
KSG: Art has many healing properties. Besides being a source of joy and satiation to the the artist it also gives lot of happiness to art lovers, connoisseurs and buyers too. I firmly believe art is for all and reflects and the soul of society. Art should not be limited to galleries. The greatest challenge is to link the common man with art and make it more accessible. (Please refer to my art statement)
RS: What do you think about the younger generation and their inclination towards digital art rather than the more traditional artforms. Do you think that the traditional forms of art will slowly wane and die? Any suggestions to keep the Global as well as Indian art legacy intact?
KSG: The interest and ways of art have changed overtime with new technology and mixed media. Yes, some artforms we need to preserve in pure form. These vanishing arts need conscious propagation like frescoes, murals, calligraphy etc. The new generation, though very innovative and experimental, needs to know the original way of doing artforms. For example, use of natural colors.
RS: You have exhibited your work in umpteen number of group and solo exhibitions. Is there any fresh exhibition on the anvil? Do tell us something about it?
KSG: My current exhibition, ‘Art Unplugged’, is ongoing at Civil Services Officers Institute at New Delhi. My next show ‘A Tryst with Art” is scheduled to be held at the prestigious Jehangir Art Gallery Mumbai from 12-18th April 2022.
RS: What advice would you give upcoming artists? Please give them some tips to hone their craft.
KSG: Art is a beautiful way to discover oneself. Yes, it needs to have inspiration but lot of perspiration and consistency also. One has to appreciate how it takes years for an artist to master the strokes and build one’s own style. The younger artists should be ready for the struggle, hard work, and learn to live with a passion.
Thank you so much Ms Kiran Soni Gupta for taking time out to talk to The Wise Owl. We wish you the best in all your creative endeavours and hope that your desire to alleviate social ills and make the world a better place, by integrating art and social sciences is fulfilled.
Works of Kiran Soni Gupta
A Walk in the Forest
Oil on Canvas 36 X 48
Acrylic on Canvas 36 X 48
Acryilic On Canvas (2016)
Oil on Canvas 24 X 36
Kiran Soni Gupta believes that man’s soul is the architect of history and that art is the manifestation of man’s soul & reflection of human identity. Art is unbounded and recognizes no constraints. Her artworks auctions in Cambridge for raising charity for children’s food and education have helped her in realizing her vision of art for social causes. In modern times, art is playing a dominant role in bringing about social change, transcending borders and minds. Art is the domain of the dialogue between civilizations and cultures; it can speak in a loud and penetrating voice. Art is most often seen as pleasing the eye - creating beauty. Yet the idea of beauty, like that of truth, is most challenging in the present day. If something moves you to an understanding, somehow unreachable for you, by the common paths of words and reason, it's Art for you. Art is not for the sake of anything…. each artwork in its own right depicts the image of the soul of the artist and the society at large. Art is a human activity, which has as its purpose the transmission to others of the highest and best feelings to which men have risen.
Contemporary art has become more global in nature and we want to find a way to integrate it into daily life. We can’t really understand our times until we look back and so we need artists to help us look ahead.
For her the truth rings in words ‘To wake the soul by tender strokes of art’ - Alexander Pope
‘Art transcends all human boundaries. It is a gift of almost inexplicable, magical energy. When our hearts, through our senses, are touched by art, our lives are enhanced.’
-Richard MacDonald, Sculptor