Interviews

artnet Asks: Natvar Bhavsar, Veteran Artist by ADMIN

He's been painting for 50 years, and go for a 1,000 more.

Painter Natvar Bhavsar was born in Gujarat, India, and arrived in the United States in 1962 to study art. Now, over 50 years later, his expansive career is being celebrated at Cara Gallery in New York, with the exhibition “NATVAR BHAVSAR: Five Decades” presenting over 30 paintings and drawings made from the 1960s to the present. Here, we ask this prolific artist to introduce us to his artistic journey and process.

How did your career begin? What brought you to New York?

My life has been filled with unpredictable and unusual events since childhood. My coming to America in 1962 was perhaps the most significant event—as I never thought there was the financial possibility of leaving India to go abroad. A year after my arrival, I received a foreign student scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania’s graduate school of fine arts, where I had the good fortune of learning about and meeting the most avant-garde creative people of the time. Professor Piero Dorazio, Professor Angelo Savelli—both renowned Italian artists—Otto Piene of the Zero Group, and the architect Louis Kahn were the pioneering leaders of the school.

Upon graduation, I was awarded the John D. Rockefeller III grant. This helped me to begin pursuing my life in art here in New York, since 1965. My first studio in New York at 80 West 3rd Street and was, fortunately, right behind the Judson Church on Washington Square Park. This was where some of the most exciting cultural and political dialogues of the time were happening, where John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Alan Ginsberg, and more interacted through happenings that brought all the arts together, including dancers, writers, and musicians.

 Natvar Bhavsae,  PR-KRI-TEE III  (2011). Courtesy of Cara Gallery.

Natvar Bhavsae, PR-KRI-TEE III (2011). Courtesy of Cara Gallery.

During this period, through Piero Dorazio’s introduction, I was able to meet and develop friendships with many of the major contributors to the art world, including Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, Adolf Gottlieb, Robert Motherwell, Clement Greenberg, and many more.

What are some things that inspire you?

Expressive and creative emersion into the process of art-making, observing the eternal flux and abundant visual play in nature, and the gifts left to us by the creative personalities of history through architecture, music, and poetry.

In my expressive moments, I have said that my artistic journey of exploring is akin to my taking a walk in the wilderness.

Describe your creative process. What kinds of patterns, routines, or rituals do you have?
Since my arrival in New York City in 1965, I have maintained, on a daily basis, an uninterrupted, rigorous, and spirited involvement in my creative engagement. This brings me fulfillment and joy, and that freedom in learning through creation and observation has remained at the core of my art.

Now, nearly 50 years later, this uninterrupted flow of painting, emphasizing and exploring the limitless possibilities of color, has led to my works being exhibited continuously since my first exhibition in 1968 on Boston’s Newbury Street.

 Navtar Bhavsar,  SAMA-LAA  (1969). Courtesy of Cara Gallery.

Navtar Bhavsar, SAMA-LAA (1969). Courtesy of Cara Gallery.

What have been some of the most memorable trips you have taken?

Throughout my life, I have traveled with my family to Europe and India to see art at great museums and to visit archeological sites. The caves of Ajanta and Ellora in India (near Aurangabad), which holds art made from 3 BC to 11—painting, sculpture, and architecture—built with support of kings, the mercantile class, and monks. Those artists have remained unnamed, but for me and my family the caves have become our most cherished place to revisit again and again.

My most recent revisits were to Italy and Spain—visiting the Prado was a renewal of my spirit, underlining my eternal hunger for witnessing mastery.  Living in New York, I have chosen to see practically all the major events at the great museums in the city—the Frick, the Morgan, the Metropolitan, the Guggenheim, etc. Attending last week’s Frank Stella retrospective at the newly built Whitney brings to my mind a renewed reverence to what I have experienced over the past decades since my arrival in New York. The momentous contribution of Frank’s art represents a great affirmation of his creative agility and courage. These are the blessings to witness of living in this great city of ours.

If you weren’t an artist, what do you think you would be doing?

In many interviews in the past I have expressed my eternal enthusiasm by saying, “I would want to paint for 1,000 years.” I said this about 40 years ago, and I would say the same thing today at 81 years of age.

Which collectors would you most like to collect your work?

Over the span of my creative life, my art has been acquired by individuals who are passionate about experiencing the art. Major corporations for their boardrooms have also acquired many of my artworks.

Although there are a significant number of my artworks acquired by private and corporate collections, the number of museums collections lag behind—I would like to see that change. Also, my birth country India has hardly experienced or collected my art, except for a handful of collectors who have a few of my works. I would like to see that change too.

Read the article on artnet.com.

Interview with Time Out Hong Kong by ADMIN

Time Out Hong Kong

Ahead of his first Hong Kong exhibition, the world-renowned abstract expressionist and colour field pioneer tells Mary Agnew about making it in New York, hanging with Rothko and Pollock, and the search for ectasy.

On the phone from his home studio in New York's SoHo, the celebrated abstract expressionist and pioneer of colour field painting, 75-year-old Natvar Bhavsar, whispers deep insights into a time of tremendous art exploration and development. As an Indian immigrant artist Bhavsar quickly became a contemporary and friend of the likes of Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Barnett Newman and a staple figure within the creative community of his newly found artistic homeland. His soft-spoken stories, much like his paintings, are bathed in the romantic light of a gold era.

Read the entire article here.

A Master's Stroke by ADMIN

When Stephen Snowball sat down to interview Natvar Bhavsar, a celebrated artist of Indian origin, little did he realize that it would be a journey in self-exploration. His musings...

For a second let's forget his longstanding presence in New York City's most prestigious galleries. For a minute, set aside his long list of international tours and even longer list of esteemed accolades. Let's even put off our mind, for a moment, the fact that artist Natvar Bhavsar has been painting with passion and promise since, with the restless hands of youth, he first picked up a paintbrush as a child.

Read the rest of Stephen Snowball's Friday Magazine, Gulf News, article here.

Breaking into the Global Art Market by ADMIN

The long-awaited world premiere of aptly called The Poetics of Color, a documentary on the life of the now 75 year old Natvar Bhavsar, the great Indian painter colorist, took place at the packed SVA Theater several days ago, amid much excitement in the Chelsea movie house. The crowd was made up of people who’d read the many articles on his life and work and those who had not. The audience loved the gentle painter.

They also loved the talented writer and director of the film, international gallerist, Sundaram Tagore, who has galleries in New York, Beverly Hills, and Hong Kong. He made his film debut presenting this painter in the documentary medium, his first time doing it and directing a film. The cognoscenti of the New York art community were in the theater being heard having scholarly chitchat about Tagore and about Bhavsar, who was there with his American wife, who’d come with him from India to New York to a Soho loft to get Bhavsar’s career really going.

It was a good match, Bhavsar and very articulate and scholarly Tagore who is intellectually talented almost as much as his great uncle, Rabindranath Tagore, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913.

The 60-minutes Poetics of Color, shown at the SVA Theater by the Mahindra Indo-American Arts Council was for its 10th Annual Arts Council Film Festival in New York. The Festival had the support of Mahindra & Mahindra, a $6 billion Indian manufacturer of tractors, a global business and serious promoter of Indian culture in America. Mahindra Film Festival, in 2007, U.S. screened brilliant Slumdog Millionaire directed by Danny Boyle, which won an Oscar for best picture in 2009; for Boyle an Oscar for best director. The Festival may give Poetics of Color and Tagore “legs” to race to the top too. It has made a bet on Bhavsar. Artists can’t become great if a marketing machine isn’t behind them to sustain their development.

Tagore, filmmaker and marketer, said, “Bhavsar’s paintings are in more than 800 public and private collections, including those of the Guggenheim, Metropolitan, Whitney museums. He is certainly running with Bhavsar to push him to the topof the art market — “this Tibetian-like mandala painter.” Bhavsar’s huge canvases, upon which dry sifted pigments of paint “are thrown” and worked until they are transformed into the creations he’s conceived in his mind. The results are comparable to the highly creative, highly artistic, great, black “paint throwing” of Jackson Pollack. Bhavsar’s “throwing” of his dry, multicolored paints on his canvases is different, of beautiful reds and blues, beautifully mixed — exotic visually; a unique craft, art.
Tagore was clever to open a gallery in Hong Kong, the third largest art-auction market in the world but behind London, the second largest; behind New York, the largest (the Wall Street Journal reported New York sales for 2010 was $1.1 billion).

Tagore has a gallery in Asia’s culture capital that has plenty of money to market Asian art robustly globally. He is a niche marketer, perfect for rich India, which is a strong Asian culture. He has muscle, clout to sell Indian artists worldwide. His polished English, his Oxford doctoral candidacy, his confidence, his popularity as a sought-after art history lecturer are ideal talents for him to sell Indian art in the hottest global markets. Can he take his beautiful Poetics of Color to the same heights dazzling Slumdog Millionaire reached or at least make it as popular worldwide?

American “Scholastic Press” was not known to be a fiction publisher, not until its Levine Books got hold of J.K. Rowling’s young adult, teen novel “Harry Potter” and niche marketed it so stunningly that the super publishers were aghast. No fiction publishing like what Levine Books did for “Harry Potter” has ever taken place — 400 million copies sold worldwide. The movies made from the “Harry Potter” series have made this intellectual property a $24 billion brand — and Rowling a billionaire. That’s what genius global niche marketing can do even for intellectual property.

Read the entire article on Huffington Post, written by Norman Darden, by clicking here.

Rainbow in Translation by ADMIN

Closing this week at Sundaram Tagore’s Hong Kong space is the first East Asian retrospective of Natvar Bhavsar, a famed Indian artist who made his career in New York and his name in Venice.  I must agree with the acquisition curators of major museums around the globe: his work is stunning.   It is at once immediate and meditative, and refreshingly bereft of conceptual conceit.

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The Rediff Interview/Painter Natvar Bhavsar by ADMIN

Natvar Bhavsar

Born in Gujarat in 1934, Natvar Bhavsar was 28 when he arrived in the United States to study for a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Pennsylvania. On receiving his degree in 1965, Bhavsar moved to New York City where he became a witness to, and a participant in, the great cultural flowering of the time � in dance, music, and painting.

For three decades he has lived in Soho and watched the neighbourhood become a symbol of New York's celebrated art world. In some ways his story mirrors the story of the neighbourhood. From his first show there in the late 1960s to his latest exhibition of small pictures, Bhavsar's work has embodied some of the vast currents that transformed Abstract Expressionism into the pre-eminent movement of the age.

In person he is an extremely gracious interviewee. He spoke for more than three hours to Jeet Thayil on a day when a wrenched back made it difficult for him to sit for any length of time without discomfort. This interview was conducted partly in the Sundaram Tagore gallery, and partly at Bhavsar's home-studio next door.

Read the entire article, written by Jeet Thayil, by clicking here.

Painter's Philosophy 'Goal beyond Objects' by ADMIN

Natvar Bhavsar's paintings seem dematerialized. They are silent color-presences, incredibly responsive to light-change - almost one suspects to changes in atmosphere. One of his recent large paintings faced us in his studio while we talked, and each time I looked at it, it appeared to have undergone some subtle but total transformation.

Read the entire article, by Christopher Andreae for The Christian Science Monitor, by clicking here.