Meet Shafali R Anand, an artist who paints her emotions on the canvas
Born in Varanasi and brought up around the country, mostly in the Himalayas, artist Shafali R Anand now lives in Noida. It was during her growing up years in the far-reaches of the Himalayas that she made friends with her sketchbook, and the two have been inseparable ever since. Even while she was doing her mechanical engineering, drawing and painting was something she never left. “Painting is my first love that grew into an all-consuming and everlasting passion over time,” says the artist adding, “What you see on the canvas are my feelings that have transformed into forms, colors, and shapes.”
Her just-started art exhibition Revelations at Lalit Kala Akademy, New Delhi, is her third after the pandemic ended. She had one in May at the India Habitat Centre and another in September at the Alliance Francaise de Delhi, both of which got tremendous love from patrons and art connoiseurs. “The LKA show has some of my most complex works in it,” says Shafali. Excerpts from an interview:
So, tell us more about Revelations.
REVELATIONS is a selection of about 20 Oil Paintings and a dozen Pen and Ink Artworks that I’ve done over the last six years. I believe that the genre of an artist’s work is defined not by the artist but the viewers and critics. I don’t try to paint in a specific style or on a specific subject – I paint the image that presents itself to me. I merely paint the image that forms in my mind to the canvas, retaining the same forms and the same colors.
From Mechanical engineering to art – how and when did the transition happen?
There was no transition. I still believe that art always was and always will be my passion. I am engineered to be an artist.By the time I left home at the age of 12, I was already good at portraiture and life-drawing, but I didn’t take it all that seriously. Studies mattered, because they could pave way to financial independence and help me escape an early marriage.
Mechanical engineering happened because I was good at science and in those days, art was never a career. I still think that art in its raw form doesn’t guarantee financial independence, but being an engineer does. I loved Math and Physics and it helped me become an engineer. Being an engineer helped me get a job at a steel plant. It was then that I began to feel somewhat stifled and I started looking for options that give me an opportunity to be creative yet help me stay solvent. So I did my PGDM in merchandizing from NIFT Delhi and worked in exports. The stifling continued…until I discovered Instructional Design. Born of the marriage of creativity and logic, this discipline had me in its thralls. In 2004, I started out on my own – As an instructional design consultant, I created innovative training programs and online courses while as an artist, I was now free to accept art commissions that I felt good about.
I think my work allows me to follow my passion as an artist. My profession is Theo to the Van Gogh in me – it sustains me and my love for art. My art, I think, is an accurate reflection of my soul at a given point in my life. It is not born to fulfill a specific requirement – instead it’s born free of all shackles and speaks from its heart.
Who is your biggest inspiration in the art world, and why?
I can’t really single out any one artist. I’ve fallen in love with the art of many artists over time – I’ve been inspired by the lives of some, and discouraged by the lives of a few others. I think that artistic inspiration is a mixed bag. However, Claude Monet has always held a special place in my heart. I’ve respected him for being steadfast with respect to his art. I’ve also been a fan of James Christensen and felt devastated upon his death in 2017. One of the artists who awes me with his amazing visual prowess is James Bama. Among the women artists, I’ve been awestruck by Sarah Biffin’s incredible talent and courage and loved Frida Kahlo’s later works. But probably the biggest influence on me has been that of Leonardo Da Vinci. I’ve admired him for his curiosity, his analytical mind, and his ability to ruffle feathers while remaining unruffled himself. I assume that nobody other than Michel Angelo got under his skin. Among the Indian artists, I’ve been a fan of MF Hussain, Manjeet Bawa, and Satish Gujral.
I think I am most inspired by an artist’s display of courage – the courage to continue painting; the courage to ignore the ignominy; the courage to make visual statements that don’t speak but scream. As Aristotle famously said, “courage is the virtue that makes all other virtues possible.” And that includes the virtue of art.
What kind of works are more close to you.
I paint emotions. I don’t consciously use any specific kind of imagery. When I experience emotions, often facilitated by the terribly high degree of empathy I possess, the image that I would eventually paint, appears in my mind – fully-formed and vividly colored. My works, as you can see include figures, faces, expressions, nature, which are strung together using the thread of abstract visuals.
I paint because I must. I draw because I must. I cannot breathe free if I don’t draw and paint and it is so because the language that my heart speaks is primarily visual. I don’t choose what I want to make. The image that wishes to be drawn or painted, chooses me.
Who inspired you to become an artist?
I think that I became an artist because as a child I had nobody to play with. grew up in places where ours was the only family for miles – and so I’d spend hours sitting under pine trees or in the porch of our house, drawing all that I could see. My father would bring me sketchbooks and pencils and he would sketch a little too – so I guess that I was tutored by Mother Nature with some help from my father.
What are your other interest areas?
Writing and Painting occupy most of my waking hours. I write a lot – but I don’t think that words do my bidding as quickly and with as much flourish, as the brush does.
I never get bored of painting and drawing – but when I can’t do any of these – I read. I’m fond of reading fantasy fiction, science fiction, mysteries, and even thrillers. At the risk of sounding prosaic and bourgeois, I’d like to say that I seldom read non-fiction and poetry.
Any other exhibitions planned after this?
Sure. I’m in talks with a few galleries in Mumbai and Bangalore. My next show in the Capital will be coming up at the Visual Arts Gallery, in the December of 2023.
The show is on till Nov 28,11am to 7pm at Gallery No. 5, Lalit Kala Akademi, Mandi House