Nayanaa’s work typifies the best characteristics of this genre–the air of whimsy, the flat bright polished surfaces and the extra ordinary plethora of intricately worked detail. The freshness and charm of the images she creates gives a crystalline utopian appearance to the mundane everyday life being depicted. She reflects on the charming idiosyncrasies of her subjects with a fine degree of wit and gentle satire. Her paintings depict the various faces of India–Lifestyles past and present–weddings, bazaar(market) scenes, vehicles, ancient sports, beach compositions, many of which with economic growth will eventually disappear.

As a contemporary artist, her work is a reflection of the changing face of our nation, through the images of the notable celebrities and public figures, the urban elite, and the common man on the street. The acute static demeanor of her portrayals lends itself to movement through the vehicles of vibrant and dynamic colors, the composition of patterns and intense details, and the gentle Indian spirit reminiscent of centuries past fusing with the invasion of modern advents and amenities.

Each depiction is charged with innocuous humor personifying the subtle ironies that permeate daily life, which lay in harmony, and yet in conflict with the collision of East and West. Her paintings are charged with deceptive simplicity, a mirthful lyricism, and a spirit of authenticity. Together, they coalesce to form insightful documentations, a visual timeline of our society through the lens of everyday occurrences, objects, and people. Around each corner of our cities and villages, we encounter a common and still forgettable site of an overcrowded café, a bustling street, or a flower vendor, yet our deadness of seeing leads us to deplorably disregard the modest and unscathed beauty of our rich culture.

Many pieces reflect an unkempt maelstrom that has engulfed our transitioning society, providing fuel to a raging dichotomy where on the one hand we have people tenaciously clinging to their roots, fearing the extinction of their cultural identities, and on the other hand we have the birth of a new generation dependent upon progressive conveniences.

“Through her images of India’s vast panorama, these paintings provoke a heightened consciousness and challenge the viewer to consider the reigning and ever- transforming civilization. In her paintings a picture of the moment is built up in which whole histories and relationships are made visible. These paintings are moments of pleasure held forever. They are about time and time in paintings is movement stilled.

There is a sense of fun that is sometimes picaresque, that verges hesitantly on the erotic, but excels in the shrewd tongue-in-cheek observation of individual psychology and the customs and manners of groups.”


She has held 5 exhibitions on horses in all their majesty and various gaits .All these especially the one on Horses from East and West were a huge success.
She digressed onto the High Victorian Buildings of Mumbai- a legacy of the British Raj. She highlighted all their architectural details and painted these monuments in Naïve style and spirit- the impossibly blue skies, balloons and kites floating in the air, and ships dancing on the sea.

It had taken her 25 years to find herself. Where figures were once incidental to her buildings which dominated her canvas, she concentrated on couples and families in stiff studio settings .The focus here was on people engaged in the laborious but exciting exercise of a day in the studio or home, in their very essential Indian attire against a very European setting. All this is a record for posterity.

Concerned with a mode of life which will eventually disappear and crumble under the pressure of a new economic order ( in this case the supermarkets , department stores and now online shopping) these paintings are a record of a lifestyle which was and will be no more. Nayanaa has portrayed for posterity the various faces of India, lifestyles- past and present- market scenes, the small vendors round the corner , beach scenes, rituals, ancient sports, weddings, vehicles, especially the humble bicycle which is the only mode of transport for millions of Indians .Also worth mentioning is the delicate wit and sarcasm , the mere suggestion of an allegory and satirical thrust in her various paintings. The emphatic explicitness of the various family portraits moves us by the intensity of the experience it expresses.

In the routine exercise of life and the deadness of seeing to which one gets so accustomed to, all the minute details are brought forth with such simplicity that the world appears even more true naked and simple than it actually is. There is also a certain nostalgia involved as we recede into space to see the lifestyle of our grandparents and great grandparents and also if we project ourselves into the future, how we would appear to our great grandchildren who would look upon us in the same vein.

In her exhibition DISTINGUISHED COMPANY (2007) which was a major landmark in her career she writes.

My work is based on the timeless themes and experiences of the masters. Delving into the psychological experiences and socio- economic conditions which prompted them to paint what they did I have taken valuable inputs from their paintings and incorporated them into my signature style. I have portrayed the powerful influences that their artwork has left on society today. By innovatively mirroring images that once mirrored life, I have achieved a connection between the eminent artist, his works and our contemporary world.

The unforgettable 26/11 terror attacks on Mumbai were the outcome of A CITY WAKES UP INSIDE ME (2010)

About her new series ‘A CITY WAKES UP INSIDE ME’ where she has captured Mumbai, Nayanaa Kanodia says, “Mumbai - the city of dreams and opportunities was shattered on 26/11 2008 and held to ransom by a bunch of terrorists challenging the nerve of the city. The burning city fired her creativity .This series shows the importance of the city in our daily existence and understanding the metamorphosis in the social and architectural make-up of a metropolis. It is a microcosm of our world at large. Her work portrays emotionally charged moments of seemingly ordinary people faced with their day-to –day situations. Human elements are placed provocatively against a background of entire streets/cities. We have a soul within a soul. The interiors have people living their lives and emotions and existence. Static scenes lend movement to the images.


I do not regard art as a universe separate and remote from the concerns of ordinary living. I have anticipated the modern notion of reality as a dialectical interplay of the visible and the feasible, of knowledge and vision. Waking life and the life of dreams flow together.


Unlike the constant obligations that demand something of us, the great outdoors gives something to us- a sense of coming home, of regaining our lost innocence, of finding peace at last.

My paintings are varying angles of a single prism. Society continues to forge ahead in scientific advancement, seeming to accelerate the divide in our connection to nature. And yet, we find ways to bring the outside back into our lives, at times subconsciously, at times with great perspective and intention.

Ultimately, the goal and thus the journey remains the challenge to balance the polarity of the worlds in which we reside. This exhibition was motivated by showing how important it is to conserve our environment .The results would be disastrous if we do not take adequate steps from now itself.


The journey of life takes on many hues, shapes and patterns which are in constant motion as one progresses from childhood to adolescence and onto old age. These configurations are astounding and the way we handle and live through the myriad situations in our lives is mind boggling and truly worth recording in a visual context. Each painting has the potential for several meanings, one revealed by the presence of colours juxtaposed carefully to form a harmonious whole, one revealed by the intricate patterns and details, and one revealed by the underlying content and narration. Thus, what appears to be a choice of method (a technique involving four layers of colour) proves to be the seeds, sun, and water of a highly complex organism of construction.

In short, one can grasp the complexity and nuance of my paintings and my vision only after abandoning our typical notions and then keenly observing the relationships and components at play. The projected images serve as a veneer, behind which an infinite number of experiences and interpretations are possible. Behind the pedantically, accurate and misseen –scene, the world is so true, naked and ludicrous that we catch our breath as we recognize it.

Copyright 2016 Nayanaa Kanodia

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