Vincent Van Gogh had said of his work, “I dream of painting and then I paint my dream.” Anybody can take a brush, dip it in a palette of hues and make patterns on a canvas. But what sets a true artist apart is the ability to bring people and landscapes from one’s imagination or surroundings alive on paper. But more than that, it is the ability to stop the observer in his tracks, to make him think, to get him to feel what the artist feels and to find a space in his soul where the work of art keeps on living, long after it is out of his sight. Bahaar Dhawan Rohatgi would easily fit this description of a true artist. Her works, whether portraits or abstracts, are almost hypnotic. “As a feminist, I am endlessly fascinated by the female form. Conveying the strength and depth of a woman’s persona is challenging and at the same time, creatively satisfying,” says 28-year-old Bahaar.
The lawyer and the artist
Bahaar had completed her five-year BBA, LLB course from Symbiosis Law School before her stint as a Senior Associate at the prestigious Law firm Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas in New Delhi for five years. It’s not that she was unhappy with her legal career as she was doing well at her job and was representing many top clients. But art had always been her passion. Often she would get this urge out of the blue to paint, but deadlines and work commitments would always take precedence. She started painting late into the night after her work hours to quench her creative thirst. Strangely enough, her workplace itself was a breeding ground for the artist in her as many associates and partners at the firm had started investing in her works. Friends teasingly called her ‘Lawyer by the day and Artist by the Night’! “However, creating art at night while having a demanding day job was neither wise nor sustainable as fatigue and sleep would overtake me at the oddest hours. Weekends were fruitful, but everything from household chores to family and social commitments competed for my time,” says Bahaar.
As is often the case, Bahaar had to choose between the stability of a well-paying job she was good at and an aching desire to continue on the creative path. She soon realised that her passion for art was so overwhelming that after a point money and promotions had started feeling meaningless.
One day at work, I was consumed by the most indescribable feeling. I felt like I was trying to read station signs from a speeding train. A station approaches, but I was speeding so fast, flying by, and was unable to make anything of it. I wanted to implore the visions in my mind to stay long enough, without distraction of other pending responsibilities. That was when I knew I had to stop juggling.
Bahaar decided that her first official exhibition was going to be the litmus test. After a month of hard work, her debut exhibition in May 2015 was well received and she quit her job to focus completely on her art.
The dedicated artist
Bahaar recently completed a Business of Art course from the Young Women’s Leadership Programme in association with DAG Modern, the first art course of its kind focusing on the business side of art, taught by Indian and international faculty.
Bahaar has been part of eight shows and has shown her work alongside the well-known names in the country. She is currently displaying her work in an ongoing group show called ‘Conversation’ at the Indira Gandhi International Terminal (T1). Bahaar was also a part of a recent exhibition – ‘Masters of Modern Art’ – where she was the only young Indian artist being showcased alongside some very promising international contemporary artists. She says that there is a growing appreciation of upcoming artists in the country. Bahaar’s works have also been collected by some of the country’s top collectors, big corporates, and private clients, including NRIs, Swedish, and US citizens.
Themes and motifs
Bahaar says, “I am greatly influenced by Scandinavian and American contemporary artists. I am also an avid admirer of Late J. Sabavala’s and Shakti Burman’s artwork amongst the Indian artists.”
She likes to keep experimenting and does not like monotony. Though she primarily works with acrylic on canvas, she plays around with a lot of materials. She is heavily influenced by the Cosmos and galaxies, which find expression in her series of abstracts called ‘Interstellar Series’. Bahaar has used materials like cement and resin to create layers and textures to bring the mystery of planets and space into her work. Morphing and deconstruction of form is a very important part of her works, which can be seen in the works featuring birds and animals. The owl is a common motif which she sees as a positive and adorable creature, as against the negative connotation of the bird prevalent in popular culture. Since she travels a lot and meets people from all walks of life, she is inspired by something as mundane as conversation.
Inspiration and dreams
Her family is her support system. “My husband is my biggest support and motivates me to pursue my dreams. My parents, sister and in-laws are always there for me. Whenever I faced any setbacks in life, I seek strength and fall back on my family,” says Bahaar.
Bahaar hopes to be painting all her life and also wants to contribute to the art community by practicing art law. She hopes that her expertise in the legal field can help artists, dealers, and galleries. However, in the long run, she wants to help bring about legislations which would help in increasing transparency, accessibility and make valuation of works non-speculative, thereby increasing investor confidence in the Indian art market.