There is something about being an artist that spurs people’s curiosity and grabs their attention.
An artist in her own right, Dr. Tahseen Khan believes that art is a reflection of one’s state of mind. Using her innate artistic skills and blending it with inspiration from daily life, the doctor creates art that evokes strong emotions in viewers and leads to a profound admiration for her works. Using color as her primary means of expression, Dr. Khan’s paintings draw inspiration from nature and reflect village scenes and nostalgic memories of her early days back home in Chennai.
Her paintings are the result of nurturing an inborn skill in painting that she inherited from her mother, an accomplished painter. She is reported to have started painting in water colors even before she could start writing the alphabets.
A pediatrician by profession, Dr. Tahseen Khan specializes in new-born and premature babies; a field that calls for great compassion and absolute professionalism.
In an exclusive interview with The Times Kuwait, she talks here about her life and her passion for painting.
Q. Tell us a little about yourself.
“Well, basically I am a physician in pediatrics, but from the beginning I have been interested in paintings. Just recently, I got interested in premature and new born babies; spending every day with them is like a dream, even though they are not very interactive, I have gone into this field because it appeals to me. Art was not considered important in my early days and not much importance was given to it.
So I never received the support in school or at home to pursue it as a career, also as a women it was very important for me to establish a place in life. My father asked me to focus on one thing because, he said, you cannot do both. I did not have many options in those days; I could just become an art teacher but I did not want to do that. After marriage though, with the help and support of family and friends I would paint here and there and I started painting again. I have not been very good at speaking and expressing myself, but it is through my paintings that I express myself.”
Q. Where does your inspiration come from?
“My inspiration is mainly the village scene from childhood. Staying in the suburb I could see a lot of farms, fields, temples and bullock-carts on the streets; a very laid back kind of atmosphere. Whenever I start painting, my mind goes back to that rural landscape and it always comes out in my paintings, whether I like it or not. Most of my paintings are on the village scene because it is very down to earth and that is what appeals to me.”
Q. Tell us about your paintings and any exhibitions that were held.
“I started with water painting but after a while I thought, water painting is not what I am supposed to do. I realized that it is a separate technique. In due time, I slowly improved through reading on art from the internet, I had no formal education in art and no teacher to teach me. Every year I travel to the United States to spend some time with my kids there; during one of my visits, I tried to get some training to develop my painting and I found out a Five Day Workshop by Susan Sarback. I visited her website and looked at some of her paintings, and it really appealed to me. Before my paintings had a lot of browns and greys in them, I could not express myself through color. In those five days, my whole personality and my entire technique towards art changed. It is my dream to go and work with her. After this, my first exhibition was held here in the Quick Art Center. The theme was ‘War’ and I was interviewed by Kuwait TV. The Indian Ambassador wanted to promote art in Kuwait, so my collection of paintings was put up for the exhibition and it was a huge success. This was another exhibition held at the Beth Lothan and my work was seen and appreciated by the members of the royal family too.”
Q. Tell us about the Indian Women’s Association.
“Indian Women’s Association was established in 1997 and I joined them in 1998. It was started by a small group of people focusing on expatriates and maids. They provide scholarships for kids who could not afford to pay their school fees. Over the years the association has grown and now reaches many parts of India. In 1992, I became the Vice President for the association and now we have started providing uniforms, books and other needs for the HIV Aids affected children of Goa.
This project is called ‘Bridge of Hope’. More and more children are being benefited by this project as most of them are shunned from the community, but we support them. We have another project for the Thalassemia affected children. We help pay for their treatment, which is very expensive in India. It is a situation where a person is either dead or is completely healthy.”
Q. How do you feel when your emotions are out on the canvas?
“I try to bring out my emotions every time I sit to paint but sometimes I feel frustrated as it does not come out because of my technique. Especially I try very hard for Indian Women’s Association. I always try to bring out the positive and not the negative aspect of it. I try to bring out the emotions involved by the people I see because I like movement, I do not like anything still. I love to tell a moving story through my paintings.”
Q. What technique do you use for your paintings?
“I mostly use a palette knife now, but before it was oil or acrylic and oil - a mixed media. Using a palette knife makes it kind of an impressionistic; because if you use a paint brush you concentrate on the details, but with a palette knife you go into the overall picture and its impression. Just by a stroke or something you can create whatever you want, but with a brush you fuss over small things.”
Q. Which is more important to you, the subject of your painting, or the way it is executed?
“It is always the overall picture that matters to me; it is never one particular area because a painting should tell a story. An artist should not see if the nose is correct, if the hair is right but focus on the overall painting. For example I am doing a painting on Kashmir now, it was very difficult for me to do at first because I concentrated on bringing out the beauty of Kashmir; but later I understood that I had to bring out the pain and sufferings of the people. So I started working on bringing out its beauty and the pain of the people there. I wanted to bring that contrast and convey a story saying, ‘ok, there is pain but there is also hope’.”
Q. If there are people in your paintings, who are these people?
“I use everyday people; pictures from the magazines or the internet. I always take pictures of it for positions and expressions too. It is mainly what appeals to me and what reminds me of my childhood days, so I take pictures and use them for my paintings.”
Q. What is your artistic outlook on life?
“Light and place are the two main things I notice on my subjects. I focus on where the light is falling or coming in from or what it highlights. I check colors to see if they are matching and how I can bring it out in my paintings. I begin to think everything and everyone as a subject.”
Q. What is the place of your art in today’s society?
“I want to establish myself as a serious artist which right now I cannot because of my job. Now, it is mainly a hobby but I want to share my passion and I want to teach others. I want to make them see what I see, use the technique that I use. I am planning to turn my attention to teaching art to children because everything is amazement to them and I myself learn a lot from them. They are very enthusiastic and I believe art is a way they can express themselves. In our Indian schools, art is not encouraged much but this is what I want to change and teach kids to see and paint what they see, not what they are taught to see and know.”
Q. What do you want people to take back from your art?
“I feel that people should be allowed to be creative and whatever talent is inside them should not be restricted by boundaries. Especially parents should allow their children to do what they like. I believe what my parents decided for me was good because being a doctor I could be at a position where I could support my art. Yes, I could have been a better artist if I would have followed my heart completely and made art my career, but it is all about choices, and we don’t know what choices are right or wrong until we ourselves make them. So, I would want them to follow their heart but to a certain extent.”
- Staff Report