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VIREN TANWAR is in a reflective mode, as he settles on a bench at the Government Museum of Art, Sector 10. This is where he spent hours for years, as he studied to be an artist at the Government College of Art right next door. Internationally acclaimed artist Tanwar, who is part of prestigious exhibitions across the world, has famous private buyers, has sold at Sotheby’s, still calls himself a student of art, a keen observer.
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Here on the invitation of the Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi for an audio-visual presentation entitled ‘The Story Goes On’, Tanwar talks about the journey of his art, which began at school and continues, against all odds till now, with life being the constant inspiration in every phase, and so, ‘the story goes on’. Every experience, reflects Tanwar, was a learning experience, and though he was at school in a remote area like Hisar, the artist says he learnt pottery, carpet weaving, painting from a teacher who loved literature and poetry.
“My father was also an artist and so there was always encouragement at home to pursue the art.” Learning the many nuances of art by first copying works and painting what was around him, Tanwar says he completely admired Van Gogh, one of his favourite painters. Years later, Tanwar travelled to the painter’s attic, and recalls how the room had no window, but only a small source of light and from here, Gogh changed the history of art. “He died penniless, and we artists in India have faced so many struggles, with the survival so tough,” says Tanwar.
As opposed to India, in the West, observes Tanwar, people are recognised for their worth, and not for their position, power, money, or social standing. “I feel we are going back in time, with humanity, ethics, values missing in our life,” says Tanwar, who did his post-graduation in print-making at the Slade School of Art, London. All these concerns are being reflected in his work, with the headless figures, which he painted during the dark days of terrorism in Punjab, returning to his art, a statement on violence in society and a satire on life. “After 70 years of Independence, there is no value of the head of a normal man.”
Talking of survival, Tanwar recalls a dark period in his life when he had to face financial, emotional and spiritual challenges, with his work coming to a standstill for lack of money to even buy material. This is the phase when Tanwar, supported by his family, and encouraged by a teacher to use local materials, collected old newspapers, and made life-size works in paper-machie, including installations inspired by stories from Panchtantra.
“The artist in you keeps you alive. So, in many works, you keep yourself in the picture and relate it to larger society. I love people and I live in them. I cannot ignore their joys and sorrows, for those are common, the bundle may be heavy or light, but the journey is the same. Art is universal and strikes a chord,” he says. Tanwar’s stoies and images keep changing, as does his vocabulary of art. “Artists are people who record time and show people a mirror and while my brush doesn’t have the power to change the world, I am trying to,” he says.
Tanwar is now working on a series of miniatures on sadhus and saints, and believes artists can create when they search for truth and find it. The slide show is scheduled for February 17 at Government College of Art at 5.15 pm.