She’s known for her pieces of art crafted from materials as versatile as stone, copper, glass, wood, terracotta and acrylic amongst a host of others. Her vibrant mosaic and fibre sculpture saw her give back to Mumbai, with the altruistic thought of adding to the city’s beauty. Her paintings grace the walls of Bollywood bigwigs like Salman Khan and Sajid Nadiawala. Nagi is known far and wide for her sense of aesthetics and for taking her love for the arts to the next level with an art foundation that supports and promotes the creativity of underprivileged children. With over 300 priceless murals spread over 33 different mediums, the artist, who draws inspiration from Jackson Pollock, has gained many fans in a short period of time. She has been commissioned for her installations by luxury brands like the Taj group of Hotels and the Hyatt. Adding to her rather interesting life, generously doused with immense talent and popularity, is the fact that she shares her name with that of Russia’s currency! Nagi just finished working on a Sikh museum in India, and she is in the midst of creating a 15-foot marble sculpture for Mumbai. Youth Incorporated picks her creative brain in an exclusive interview.
You participated in the West Bengal State of Arts exhibition at the age of 19, even before you graduated in commerce. What were the challenges you faced as a young achiever?
“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.” Challenges are a part of life; whether young or old, we are always tested. Art is my passion and though I went to Slade School of Art (London), I now believe art cannot be taught. Teaching happens when knowledge and information – true, false or biased – is imparted intentionally to a student. When you paint to satisfy others, you are cheating yourself. Education is necessary, but it’s just a foundation for students. Art to me is about expressing yourself on canvas.
You have represented India at international events. How were these experiences for you?
I have always been keen to exhibit my works as I like to see what people have to say about my creations. Just as a director wants to see what reaction the audience has after seeing the film he has created, an artist also wants to evoke the same feelings in the spectators that he or she felt during creating it. At any stage, national or international, I love to exhibit.
What is the creation you are most proud of and what inspired it?
All my creations are close to me. It’s difficult to say, but if I have to choose then it would be the ‘Save the Children’ project, which was made for handicapped children and their school. I love children and love to be surrounded by them at all times.
You have experimented with many forms in your work; which one is your personal favourite and why? Which do you feel is most popular?
Over the years, I have worked with varied media but the regular ones are glass, tile, metal, fibre, stone, and frescos. I personally like cold ceramic, metal and mixed media. The most popular one is cold ceramic and the tree of life; a lot of my clients insist on having it in their homes.
In the initial stages, what prompted you to foray into charity work? How is the satisfaction derived from this work different from selling a work of art?
Art and poetry, because they deal with subjects independent of the rules and standards of the human community, play an essential and indispensable part in the existence of mankind. As an artist, I think I must give back to the people. I started working along with an NGO, Pratham, a very long time ago. I always wanted to start my own NGO and the Rouble Nagi Art Foundation took shape two years ago. It’s very satisfying to give rather than to receive.
You organised an art workshop with 900 children in Mumbai with Pratham. How did you manage to channelise the vivacious energy of these kids?
It’s really simple. Children have a very fertile imagination; when you have their focus, it all falls into place. Basically, children love bright colours and an empty sheet can really attract their attention. Some of the paintings that they create are absolutely stunning. As Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
If you had to choose one personality from the world to paint, who would it be and why?
I don’t paint people as I’m an abstract artist. But if I had to, then it would be Indira Gandhi as I look up to her for what she did for our country and achieved. I still remember reading a quote, “The power to question is the basis of all human progress.” It’s one of the few things I truly believe in.
When going through a dry spell, how do you find your creative inspiration?
My inspiration is life, so I never go through a dry spell. Life is like a big rollercoaster ride and a mixed bag of emotions that we feel on the way. I paint what I feel; my surroundings inspire me. I love the hustle bustle of my city, Mumbai. Mumbai for me is what New York is for Woody Allen. My interaction with people and my relationships makes me realise that the only thing constant is change. My paintings reflect this and, other than my husband, I am in love with a blank canvas.
What would your advice be for aspiring artists and what steps would you recommend they take?
My idea of a true artist is someone who paints or creates for his or her own satisfaction and not for others. There’s no formula as such to make it big in the art line, young artists are all doing so well for themselves in India. All you have to do is just be at it, and not get competitive with your fellow artists as there is room for us all.
Volume 1 Issue 3