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‘Because life is, art is’

Revealing a deep engagement with drawing which lies at the heart of his performance-based practice, Nikhil Chopra has exhibited his remarkable skill in landscape painting in his ‘Rehearsal Acts Series’ at the ongoing edition of ‘Sensorium’ at Sunaparanta

Story: BHARATI | PAWASKAR | 11th February 2018, 05:29 Hrs

Although Nikhil Chopra is more widely known for his performance acts, the artist infact is trained as a painter.   

“I went to art school and did my MFA in the Painting Department at Ohio State University. But in America the art department included mixed media and the artists were doing all sorts of material that is not necessarily painting,” reveals Nikhil. Upon returning to India, he began experimenting with many materials, video, performance. However when he began teaching  introduction to drawing and advanced drawing to senior students, drawing came back into his life.  

“That’s when I started to make drawings in the performance as an action that I would keep myself in the live movement,” he states.

And for the past ten years, Nikhil has been very seriously and inversively engaged in the practice of making drawings for installations and performances. “When I am drawing I enter a very sacred space where I think and I react. Lot of my ideas stem from drawing and this is a space where I am turning to my drawing practice as the mainstay of it. This is why you see drawings make a very solo appearance in a way, without performance, in this exhibition,” he smiles.

For Nikhil there are no boundaries when it comes to art. Sharing his take on contemporary art, he observes that it is in a very interesting and immersed space.

 “What is art - has become a very overt, descriptive question. There are no boundaries, no frameworks and the playing field is extremely open,” he says, adding that for an artist like himself, this is something that works very well to his advantage. “I am interested in a much more global definition of what art is. We are more and more belonging to a much more global perspective. I feel I relate as much to a German artist as I do, to an Indian artist. We, in a way, are functioning within the same linguistics and we share that language,” he contines. “Even though we are not in the Western world, I feel, we are very much abreast with the language that the West is talking about and in a way we are answering some questions that perhaps the West isn’t abreast with and we are asking some questions that perhaps are not asked in Berlin, or in Paris or in London.”

Nikhil feels that the language of art is is universal. The demand with which the global artwork is working is exposed to all, even to those who live in small places - through the internet. “Art is poised. It has no limit. People don’t live in centres anymore. Even though we may live in any corner of the world, we are connected through the internet. If I want to look at the images of Picasso right now, I can google them. I think the world is interested in how art can extend outside the centres and move to really smaller places,” he says.

The questions that are asked in smaller places are more interesting, he feels. In fact, that’s the reason why Nikhil chose to settle in Goa. “ Goa is a small place but not a secluded place. We are not in the middle of a village with no connectivity to what’s going on around us. We are very well connected. I can be sitting under my mango tree in Siolim and have my laptop open and be surfing on high speed internet connection and acquaint myself with the language that the West is talking about.”

According to Nikhil, we are living in a very interesting time. “ I am part of the people who are moving attention away from the centres, and towards recentering the contemporary art world to places like Goa or Kochi which are appearing on the international global art map. I am very excited to be part of that new wave for contemporary art,” he says.

And while he admits that for a master painter, a painting is enough to envey a very complex message or a philosphy, he enjoys working with different forms of expression and is both a painter and a performer. “It’s not that I feel that drawing has limitation that I feel the need to bring performance into it. Or performance has some limitation that I need to bring painting into it. When you put one thing and another thing, you create a third thing, that’s how I am thinking. It’s not the inadequacy of one or the other medium; it’s about the outcome of mixing one thing with another to make something else,” he explains adding that it can be compared to experimenting in the laboratory with one material and another very different material and see how they work together and what happens. Just like mixing hydrogen and oxygen to make water, a completely different substance.

For this multifaceted artist, life is more important than art. If life is not important than how can art be important? he asks. “Because life is, art is. There is a very fine line between life and art and that’s the line I like to walk on,” declares Nikhil.

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