The Big Art team had a teta-tete with vivacious, up and coming artist Bahaar Rohatgi Dhawan, at Social in Hauz Khas Village. Bahaar, is known for her abstracts that evoke the universe and all its mysterious working, through an explosion of colour and texture.
When did you create your first painting?
I was 10 years old when I made my first artwork. I loved to sketch in charcoal and I made lots of portraits of my big extended family. I also began making my own greeting cards. I spent a lot of time at the Archie’s Cards shop and studied the mechanisms of their pop-up cards. In fact, I would go as far as to say, nothing has changed. Whenever I travel I love to visit the stationary shops. In Berlin, I bought all kinds of modelling tools, stamps, cutters and thermocol cutouts. I love experimenting with new media.
How did this passion turn into a profession? As we understand you gave up a lucrative career in law to follow your passion—art.
I initially thought of taking the fashion designer route. I sat for exams at NIFT and NID and I got in. However, my mother insisted that I should take up law and I dedicated the first half of my professional life to working hard at being a good lawyer. Then I was also known as the lawyer by day and painter by night. Becoming a full-time painter was a leap of faith, given that I have no formal training in art. Moreover, my artwork is extremely unconventional, given that I work with, resin, plastic and latex, adding a three-dimensional feel to my work. Like most artists, I started off with figurative painting and then moved into abstract, which I felt is more of my expression. I began by showing works to my friends and I got a good response. Then in 2013, I was offered a solo show in collaboration with the Delhi Food Tours for Expats, which was shortly followed by another solo titled Voices from the Subcontinent, at Heirloom House, in 2015.
Has it ever daunted you that there is a certainly legitimacy given to an artist who has formally trained at art school? What about the cliques and power lobbies that are formed thereafter?
I have never approached art as a hobby. For me it’s always been a passion and I think when one is passionate about art, nothing can come in your way. Besides, I have spoken to many ‘trained’ artists and the have all shared that mostly it is about giving you a place to practice your work and providing some guidelines. No one can teach you to become and artist.
Many well-known law-firms are known to collect art…Did being part of the law world give you instant accesses to collectors?
Well I do have big collectors in the Shroff’s. But again, it’s about your art speaking to people. I have gone into the business of studying the art market and I do have a fair idea of how things function, an insight of the ‘package’. (Laughs). I have many international collectors as well. Doctors, professionals in the business world…a lot of them can relate well to the abstracts.
You were recently featured by the wine company Campo Viejo to create onsite works for their Su Casa outlet in Bombay. Was that a fun experience?
Yes! it was wonderful to see one’s work all coming together. I made the installation in record time of three days and worked like a maniac, covered in sticky resin and goo! But once it was all mounted it was wonderful to step back and see the 8×16 panel. I like the brand because they have featured Bharti and Subodh Gupta before this and I felt like I was working in good company!
Tell us, when you are not painting what do you like to do?
I love to travel. My husband, who is also my best friend, loves travelling with me around Europe and to all the out of the way places. We never stay in hotels, but love to air (Bed and Breakfast) as it allows us to sample a slice of life from the local people’s lives. I love to observe their aesthetic sense and what kind of artworks they like to put up in their homes. We both love food, so a lot of our trip is eating out. I also work out regularly. I used to be a basket-ball champ in school and college. In fact, I have the scars (points to operated knee) and I wear them like a medal!
What are your future plans?
My new series is going to be looking at the earth, inspired by my trip to Europe. The icy fjords and mountains, the green pastures and the endless sense of well-being they generate are my latest inspiration, after my interstellar series.