An artist, academician and former director of the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, India, Professor Rajeev Lochan calls himself a variety entertainer as he says he “entertains people with the varieties of works I do”.
On his recent visit to the Capital, he gave a lecture on the topic ‘The Eye and the Mind: New Interventions in Indian Art’ at the Nepal Art Council, Babermahal. But before the event, in an interview with The Himalayan Times, Prof Lochan talked on various aspects of art, and also his experiences.
Wearing a grey coat, white shirt and orange tie, when this grey-haired man sat for the interview, one assumed that he is a cheerful man who deals with serious subject matter. And the assumption was true as the conversation unravelled.
A painter, Prof Lochan’s paintings deal with the passiveness of manmade buildings and architecture that are framed in his canvas. Such as staircases of a house, dinning room, bed room, et cetera and the perfect blend of light and shadows play a vital role in his paintings with the use of subtle earthy colours. His paintings deal with realism yet the composition of his paintings are done in such a way that you are compelled to think beyond what is seen.
His photography also has a similar quality, along with human characters in the frame. He won India’s National Lalit Kala Akademi Award in Painting in 2000.
For him art is a creative process, and to define art, he prefers to quote prominent Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali: ‘Art is what flows from the mind through the hands, to the tip of the brush on to the canvas. Art is a fluid conceptual framework that gets translated through any means as a creative expression.’
Giving an instance from his lectures, he elaborates, “During my lectures I always tell my students, ‘Your mother cooks gobi-mattar, so does mine. And in today’s time, it is quite possible that they (mothers) use the same set of spices, same heart-friendly oil as shown in advertisements, and quite possible you land up buying the same set of vegetables in the departmental store. But why is it that your mother’s gobi-mattar tastes different from mine? I am sure it is something very serious actually — it is about trying and discovering, and that’s where the art lies. So, art is not just painting, not an activity which is limited to processing of canvas, but art is the creative process itself, its manifestation can be in any form.”
He adds, “In other words art is about sharing. Art is the only means of expression which has the capacity to go down to those recesses of your existence which are not accessible to common logic and are only accessible to instinct and intuition. So, it allows you to say what you can’t say through words.”
He has 20 years of teaching experience in different universities. He has worked as Assistant Professor at Department of Painting, College of Art, New Delhi, guest lecturer at Mass Communication Research Centre, Maharishi Dayanand University, Rohtak, India and more. In 1988, he was a member for formulating a new syllabus for Fine Arts for the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), New Delhi.
Then for 16 years he served as the Director of National Gallery of Modern Art. According to Prof Lochan, during his tenure he was successful in bringing 1.4 million visitors to the museum that boasts of more than 17,000 permanent collections.
After spending so many years as the museum director, he prefers to call it “a dynamic institution”. He defines, “Museum is not a warehouse. It’s a dynamic institution that allows you to delve deeper into the spirit and the origins of culture itself, and a work of art as part of the museum is the only living example of history. The rest is all inference. So, it’s the only tangible object that allows you to delve into various layers of its evolution that is provided to desire to infer and are open to newer interpretation. If you believe what you have thought, and what you have believed once is the only way possible, there shall be no inference and museum is that space which allows you that opportunity.”
Trying his hands in three different sections of art — as an artist, art academician and museum director, which one does he find the most difficult? Prof Lochan says, he finds no difficulty playing any of the roles.
“Artists are wonderful administrators of their personal life and creative endeavours, and when academically involved as teachers, they are still dealing with art through discourse, into what art creates. Being a director or administrator, it’s just that you have to be a little more large-hearted to not to think about your own personal growth process. You start thinking about the larger platform, to ensure that what you wish to disseminate is worth disseminating. The art remains the same in all, what’s the difference?” he questions.
But then there are some differences too — one major difference between artists and administrators is that artists deal with ‘me’. For administrators, it’s ‘we’ and being large-hearted to respond to other’s creative endeavours while dealing with them academically and physically, as per Prof Lochan.
He finds art everywhere, for him living life is also an art. And he defines life as, “a process of discovering with fresh eyes and fresh mind where your senses allow you to be a seeker.”
His commitment and ability to flow against the current has made him who he is today. He expresses, “I am a variety entertainer. When I’m an artist, I’m artist, and when I’m an administrator, I’m a full-time administrator, but there are correlations that I enjoy and I like to do each job.”
He has a distinguished place in the world of Indian art for all the contributions he has made to it. But how does he look at the art trends in Asia in general?
“There are two types of trends in Asia — the first one is artists trying to emulate what is happening elsewhere, trying to be what you are not, and the second trend is artists trying to be what you are and trying to have growth process within that.”
Pointing to the second trend, he explains, “For example, in Japan, the traditional Nihonga paintings and contemporary art traditions work simultaneously, they work hand-in-hand borrowing from each other, also contributing to each other. And so here what you call as an anatomy of interdependence is rather an anatomy of independence. I think that is what contributes to true growth. Remember what you emulate remains on the surface, but what comes out from within you is something that remains with you, and that’s the only thing that belongs to you.”
KATHMANDU: Prof Rajeev Lochan gave a lecture on ‘The Eye and the Mind: New Interventions in Indian Art’ at the Nepal Art Council, Babermahal on October 6. He talked about his experiences as the Director of National Gallery of Modern Art and what he did during his tenure along with the challenges he faced.
Before his lecture session, Vice-Chairman of Nepal Art Council Sagar Rana shed light on the purpose of Prof Lochan’s visit.
“The programme aims at learning from his experiences as we have culture and civilisation similar to that of India. He has the experience of 16 years being the director of the museum and we can learn a lot from him. We can get exposure to new trends in the art scenario.”
Prof Lochan focused on the importance of synergy between the public and private organisations along with the need for new perspectives to look at same thing to attract people to the museum.
One of the audience at the programme, Lecturer at Tribhuvan University Pashupati Nyaupane shared, “The talk was interesting and his talk about museums being the institution for cultural exchange between countries and strengthening diplomatic relationships touched my heart. And I also learned that museums are the way to connect the past, present and future.”
A version of this article appears in print on October 16, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.