You don’t often hear names like Jillian Tamaki, Emma Rios, Anand Radhakrishnan, Kaveri Gopalkrishnan, John Everett Millais, Degas, Renoir and Hiroshige dropped into an everyday conversation. Still less often do you hear them from a 17-year-old. Unless, that is, you’re chatting with Tara Anand.
Anand has been painting since she could first wield a brush at three years old. In fact, her first artwork wasn’t some daub on a sheet of paper. It was a full project, one that even graphic artists are nervous about beginning. “I made an illustrated story book for my little sister who’d just been born,” says Anand, shyly.
Her love for art is deep-rooted. “My mother is an artist and both my parents collect art, so I’ve been surrounded by it since I was really young,” says Anand. In fact, being an artist was almost a default option for the teen. Family holidays are always planned around art museums!
Anand’s most recent project is named ‘I am no man’ and it’s become immensely popular for its perspective. “I’m hugely interested in history and I noticed that the most prevalent narrative in Indian history is dominated almost entirely by male figures,” explains Anand. She couldn’t believe there had been no women worth remembering in our history books other than Rani Laxmi Bai. So she began her research and discovered a number of warrior queens. “Representation is important, it can make or break the views and mindset of an entire society,” says Anand. “I strongly felt that these women needed some time in the limelight, so I decided to make a project out of it.”
It is impressive to see a 17-year-old observe a gap and bridge it with her work. Clearly, Anand is a committed feminist. “I think it’s inspiring how much headway the movement is making in India and how fast,” she says. “I also think that India is still developing its own brand of feminism, figuring out how to make it work with our own set of issues and complications and especially, how to make it span classes, castes and religions.”
In the great debate about the value of art in a country as poor as India, Anand has firm views. “India has an extremely vibrant and diverse art scene ranging from textiles to street art to illustration,” she says. But she acknowledges that this creativity is not given as much respect as it should receive. “I think having faith in your own abilities and dedication is important, especially in a field like art,” she says. Since she is a young adult, family support and approval are important to her, and she’s thankful her folks have always been there for her through her journey.
How would she change this lack of respect for art? “With visibility and education,” says Anand. “I think if people are exposed to art enough, it will stop being so alien to them. More public installations and interest in local galleries and public museums will also help to cultivate public interest in art.”
Anand’s inspirations come from the books she reads and the films she watches, especially animated films and comic books. “Imagery, ideas and aesthetics in my work are adapted from books I love,” she says. Mumbai, her home town, is also a great inspiration. “A lot of my characters and sceneries are influenced by people around the city,” she says.
Only 17 now, Anand has a long way to go, but she’s certainly come a long way already.