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“My Art Brings Me Closer To Myself” – Nandini Nair, an Artist and IRS Officer From Chennai

Nandini Nair is an artist and IRS officer based out of Chennai. She began painting early on and found her solace in art. “I love the process more than the output – exploring myself through art has always elevated my spirits,” says Nandini. Her art is an exploration of herself, of women and of people around her. 

Recently she showcased 50 of her artworks in an exhibition titled ‘Small Talk’ which took her 1 year to complete. With her work, she hopes to inspire people to delve a little deeper and connect with their true selves. Get to know her better as we chat with her about art and the inspiration behind it. 

Meet our Artist for the day! – Nandini

  • Hello Nandini! Firstly, a big congrats for your solo exhibition. Please introduce yourself to our readers.

I am Nandini Nair, a visual artist based out of Chennai. I was born and raised in Cochin city, Kerala. I went to school and did my undergrad and post graduation in Economics I usually work with a variety of mediums including watercolour, pen and ink, acrylic, and oil paint.

My work is very personal to me, something that’s a reflection of myself. I love the process more than the output – exploring myself through art has always elevated my spirits. 

Title: Curled up

Title: Untamed

  • How did you discover your passion for painting?

I started painting at a very young age. I have always been artistically inclined – be it visual arts or performing arts. When I was in school, we had the option to choose an extracurricular activity, be it art, dance or music classes. I wanted to learn to dance so that’s what I chose. One day, my dance teacher was ill so I happened to attend the art class. The teacher noticed that I could draw neat lines and he insisted that I stay on for the art classes. This chance route change happened when I was 9 or 10 years old. Since then I have taken art seriously.

It was a difficult to choose between pursuing art professionally or getting a conventional degree. The latter choice won but I still fostered my love for art and continued to paint on the side. 

Nandini with her family

  • Tell us about your upbringing and how it helped you flourish!

I have been raised as a very liberal and independent person. Although in spite of having parents who were liberal and supportive, I still made a number of conformist choices in my life. It was only later that I truly realized being free and being who you really are is the most important thing – this showcases as themes in my work.

Growing up, I did a lot of theatre shows which helped me with personal growth. The interactions I have had with real people, actors, musicians, technicians etc, working together made for rich experiences in terms of understanding people, their emotions and how the world shaped them. With the help of kindred spirits, I was able to be inspired to give more time to my art. 

Talking at her ‘Small Talk’ exhibition

Involved in public discussion

Meeting some influential guests at the event! – Nandini with Girija Vaidyanathan, the longest-serving woman Chief Secretary after Lakshmi Pranesh.

  • Are you a full-time artist?

No, as much as I would like to be a full-time artist. It was one of the childhood dreams to join the Indian Civil Services. So I went on to do just that. I cleared the civil services exam and joined Indian Revenue Service in 2013. Currently, I am posted as Deputy Commissioner of Income Tax at Chennai. Managing a career in civil services and being an artist at the same time is not easy. Work timings are erratic, it is difficult to plan things ahead, but when you need to do it and it’s something you love, you just find the time!  

Last of the 31 days inktober challenge – Prompt: Guarded

A truly exciting reveal event – held at the Amethyst, Chennai

  • Tell us a little more about your creative process and what do you want people to take away from your work?

I think to figure out the world around us, we must understand ourselves first, and that’s what my art is for: self-exploration. 

I realize that there are different shades of a person. And most of the time, I try to explore what guides or what influences us to be who we are. I try to understand what part of us come from social conditioning and what is raw and real.

This process brings me closer to myself. The best part is this process never ends because as people, we keep changing, and each phase is as beautiful as the other. I hope that people viewing my art will be able to learn a little more about themselves or begin a process of self-discovery to really look into what they really are, beyond what the rest of the world has moulded them to be.

Her installation.

  • What was the theme and ideology behind your recent exhibition?

My recent exhibition titled Small Talk- Voices to be heard had 50 works in watercolour, acrylic and also one installation titled THE PLUNGE. The collection took me a year of creative revelations to complete. It is a collection of paintings embodying women as independent entities. Independence symbolized as the ability to be fluid and to be able to accommodate originality. The freedom to embrace the real spirit and own it, to let no one else own her. Small Talk, conversations that are meaningless yet transcend relevance and profundity!

It was a pleasure getting to know Nandini Nair and get a deeper look into her poignant work. We wish the best of luck for her future endeavors and hope to see more amazing artworks! 

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