The good old days of community living, totally absent today, makes her deeply nostalgic. An utter absence of colourful and unique indigenous architecture bothers her no end. And because she couldn’t do anything about creating old architecture, artist Kavita Chopra Dikshit did the next best thing she could — create artworks that depict the vibrant mohallas and lively life lived by the people of bygone years.
Mohalla is also the title of Dikshit’s maiden solo show, at present, being held at India Habitat Centre. “We have lost all our indigenous architecture and in its place has come up ugly concrete buildings with no identity of their own,” rues the artist.
“Pick up any state or any city, the newer portions coming up are so similar to each other. Sadly, along with the loss of our old architecture, we have lost an entire way of living life. Earlier, each house had its own character, own individuality — there is none today,” says Kavita adding the olden times when each person in a colony knew everyone around is the way life should be lived.
“The excessive stress on the personal space has led to people living isolated lives,” she remarks. The works displayed on the show showcases this longing of the artist. And it’s not difficult to understand her longing — Kavita grew up in a small town, Gomiya (then in Bihar, now Jharkhand) which she says is a factory town set amid nature. “There was a river (Konar), a dam, hills and waterfalls. After returning from school, we used to go around exploring Nature, climbing trees and hills. I had the most idyllic childhood, a far cry from what children in Delhi are having,” she says. In fact, two years back, she also did a book on Gomiya.
The bright coloured abstract designs portraying mohallas of the yore are all done in oil on her favourite medium, canvas. “I like working with oil as its more forgiving. It takes longer to dry up but one can correct mistakes, if any,” she says. “All these paintings are over a year-and-a-half’s work. I began working on this series in July 2017 and finished in December 2018,” she says.
Over the last two decades, Kavita has worked across media – television, film, print and the Internet. She ran a successful film production company, Full Lights, for many years before moving to web design and then to Ogilvy. The design aesthetic of each of these experiences come together in her personal work – the filmmaker’s ability to capture a moment in time, the television producer’s eye for the quirky and the topical and a designer’s grasp of colour and contrast.
But Kavita is not a full-time artist. She dons two more hats — of a graphic designer and photographer though the beauty and finesse of her paintings belies that. “I started painting only 10 years back because I got interested in it. But when friends and family appreciated my works, I started taking it seriously,” she says.
Graphic design remains her main vocation (she runs a design studio Red Design in Greater Kailash) though she is also a brilliant portrait photographer who has clicked a number of luminaries including Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Kuldip Nayyar, Shahnaz Husain, Deepa Malik, Laila Tayyabji, Suhel Seth and Shovana Narayan among others.