Rooted in his childhood in India, where art and culture are an intrinsic part of life, Arjun’s inherent artistic nature and creativity have facilitated his success as an artist. To honour his family’s legacy while continuing to evolve his personal brand and name, Arjun takes inspiration from his rich culture and history, and paints it with his own worldly visions to create manifestations of perfection through art and mixed media.
From his studios in Mumbai to the exhibits in London, he employs storied techniques to form contemporary, detailed, and timeless designs, whilst never compromising on technique, quality and inspiration.
TQ:- When did you first realize you were an artist? What inspired you?
AK:- I was always fascinated by painting. I was good in visual arts since school days. Initially I used to sketch and paint as a hobby and later took it seriously. I was never into any sports. All I could do was sketch, even for recreation. Everyone liked whatever I painted so I got more motivated to do better. People in school started calling me ‘an artist’ and then by my real name.
TQ:- You are the scion to generations old legacy of paintings and were tutored by your father who is a Padma Shri awardee – the highest order of civilian award bestowed by the country. Being surrounded by paintings while growing up, has your upbringing influenced your choice in career and work?
AK:- Definitely, it has influenced me immensely. We learn from what we look and live in. I was assisting my grandfather, Late Mr. Kanhai Chitrakar and father, Mr. Krishn Kanhai (both are Padma Shri awardees). There was only art in my surroundings and I really enjoyed it.
Family, friends, relatives and also school teachers had really high expectations from me. Everyone knew that I would join my family legacy and become a professional artist. I always loved paintings so career choice wasn’t much difficult. I was right up-front in visual arts till my high school. I also won almost all the art competitions at school and the ‘All India Camel Art Competition’ which was a national level competition.
I am really close to my father and used to sit next to him and watch him paint for hours, sometimes till 3 in the morning. I think his dedication towards paintings inspired me. Every single day I was getting exposed to more and more art.
TQ:- Following in the footsteps of your family legacy must have been overwhelming. How is your style of work different from that of your father’s?
AK:- I really like my father’s style of work. I think it’s the best in the world but for me individuality is key. I went to the University of Southampton (UK), for my under-graduation and completed my BA (Hons) of Fine Art in Painting. There, I started experimenting a lot. I got such a big exposure to paint, experiment, explore and most importantly, to find my own individuality as an artist. This was the time when I started traveling a lot. I was well supported by the faculty in my university and my family to start my own style of work. It took me almost 7 years of experimentation to reach so far. After my first solo exhibition last year in Mumbai, India, I received a lot of appreciation from everyone to continue with my style of work in art.
TQ:- What is the first thing you remember painting?
AK:- My first painting was at the age of six, it was a scenery (mountains, a river passing by, sun and a big green field). Later, my grandfather guided me to work on human anatomy. He said human figures tests an individual to the core, it is the best way to improve art skills.
TQ:- Have your masterpieces adorned the walls of any famous people?
AK:- I have received a lot of appreciation from various art collectors in India. Few celebrities and influencers from Bollywood such as Mrs. Hema Malini are collectors of my art as well. My paintings have been admired by Ex-President Mr. APJ Abdul Kalam and I recently had an artists’ dinner with the President of India where I gifted him one of my art pieces. I am very honored to receive such positive feedback, but I still have a long way to go.
TQ:- You have tasted success at a very young age. How do you balance your work and social life?
AK:- Discipline is the only solution to balance both. Work and social life are two important aspects in every one’s life. For me, I keep my priorities right. I make sure that I don’t compromise on work or socially. So, I try to keep both aspects in place. I socialize on a regular basis and I love meeting people and interacting with them..
TQ:- Why the fascination with mixed media?
AK:- I went to Berlin for a university art educational trip in 2009. There, I saw artists painting on photographs which really appealed to me as I had never seen anything like that. As photography was one of my subjects, I decided to experiment with it and now I use photography as a tool in my paintings, which is really helpful and very contemporary.
TQ:- What is the importance of art in interior decoration?
AK:- An empty wall or table just cries for attention, and with art work on or over it, it becomes beautiful and gets a different approach. Interior decoration is itself a form of art and paintings increase its beauty and takes it to another level. A single artwork can change the whole scenario. Paintings are really powerful, every artwork has its own history and subject. It can change the whole direction of the atmosphere present.
TQ:- Do you have any advice for artists just starting out?
AK:- My advice to all artists is to experiment and explore your own style, because art is infinite. Exploring other artists works, reading art journals by art critics is also very helpful. Sketching will improve skill but reading, experimenting, exploring and traveling will enhance creativity.“More you do, the more you learn”.
Arjun Kanhai- Up Close And Personal: –
TQ:- If you weren’t an artist you would be…?
AK:- I always wanted to be an Artist. Never thought of anything else. But in the future, I want to open a restaurant and be a chef as I love cooking.
TQ:- How do you spend your weekends?
AK:- In my field, I can take a break from work whenever I want. So, there is nothing like a weekend in my profession. I mostly work through the weekends. Generally, I take time off after I have clients visiting my art gallery to connect with the clients personally.
TQ:- Describe yourself in 3 words. One has to be a colour?
AK:- Red, Creative and Ambitious.
TQ:- What’s your perfect scenario for painting?
AK:- A perfect scenario for painting is having some soft music (soothing), no matter if its jazz or classical, with proper light, no calls and no one around except my assistant and most importantly a good mood.
TQ:- A painting you wish you had painted? Why?
AK:- I wish I could have painted “Le Rêve (the dream)” by Pablo Picasso, father of modern art. I have always been influenced by Picasso as my style of working is cubism. This is one of my favorite works by him. It’s very loud and expressive in which he has painted a 22 year old mistress, all in one day. I really like the confidence and power in the painting. Given a chance, I’d like to paint my own “Le Rêve” one day.
TQ:- Your favourite food?
AK:- Though I love to cook for others, I am not a foodie and do not like outside food. Home-made food, especially which my mom cooks is the best.
TQ:- So… a young, handsome, talented artist. Girls must flock all over you! How do you handle all the female attention?
AK:- I do get a lot of female attention as I am single and an artist. I remain as simple and grounded with women, that’s the reason I have more female friends. While I enjoy the attention I get, right now I am really focused on my work.
Seduction- Arjun Kanhai. 2011
TQ:- And finally… What are you working on right now?
AK:- Currently, I am working on a theme which is “Every being is Krishna” (Everyone has a god in themselves).
I am portraying common faces from different cities, villages, streets and roads, which I photograph, and depicting them as Krishna in my own style. It is really interesting to paint common unknown faces, there is so much story and drama in every face.