There is emotion in his painting and colour in his dance. If you happen to chance upon a painting of Lord Shiva holding a damru in his hand and Ganesha stretching his hand to reach out to the musical instrument and shouting “damruuuu”, the painter will be Himanshu Srivastava, a young budding painter and Bharatanatyam dancer who has given mythological paintings a new twist.He recently staged his solo production Shikhandi at NCPA Mumbai, and exhibits his paintings across forums. He also received a fellowship from the Ministry of Culture to research on Bharatanatyam and its association with paintings and sculptures of India.
“I’ve tried to restore and protect my power of creativity not caring about anything around me. The path is neither easy nor difficult because it is self-propelled,” says the 30-year-old, who is from Allahabad.
An engineering graduate, Himanshu also worked in the IT sector, but fine arts and dance rule his heart. It was reason strong enough for him to quit his job and follow his passions. “Even before I held a pencil, I would draw on walls. Sometimes with stone or coal and sometimes even with water; fingers are the penultimate brush,” says Himanshu.
As a child and teenager, painting was like a friend accompanying him everywhere. “It wasn’t anything outside me. We are all born creative. But as we grow older, we tend to give up succumbing to pressures around us. Luckily, I’m able to hold on to it,” says Himanshu, who is now a student of Pradip Mukherjee, an artist in Phad style of miniature painting.But dance was not a childhood hobby. “I was about 10 years old and accompanied a friend to dance class. Fascinated by the movements and inspired by her teacher Chitrangada Jain, I decided to learn dance as well,” he says.
After graduation, when he came to Delhi to join HCL, he got to know about internationally acclaimed danseuse Saroja Vaidyanathan. Himanshu did his Arangetram under her and is continuing learning under her daughter Rama Vaidyanathan in Delhi.But to switch completely from a corporate fixed salaried lifestyle to an unpredictable one of the arts was a tough decision. “Often I would wonder, who is more hungry, my soul or my stomach. In the end, my soul won,” says Himanshu.
His painting subjects mostly comprise mythological stories. “But I want people to understand that mythological stories are perennial contemporary subjects and not just bed-time stories of childhood. They have significant messages to convey. Why did Rama kill Ravana with an arrow? Rama might have many other weapons as a king. The arrow denotes astuteness of knowledge and wisdom that is most powerful and destroyed even the 10-headed Ravana. Ten here denotes various forms of evil,” he explains.
Almost all artists worry about the unpredictable income in a fine arts profession. “One has to know how to make it work and earn. One can open an institution, find out means to sell the works. I paint on pendants. One has to modify the skill and see what works and how,” says Himanshu, who sometimes works on ideas of clients to bring forth their concept. He believes it makes him dwell into untouched parts of his brain.
A voracious reader, he draws inspiration from folklores and books. “They open your new mind,” says the artist.
And when he is completely drained, he gives his mind a good break. “Walking amidst nature opens up new ideas. Nature is the greatest teacher for any kind of arts,” he says as he dips his brush into the palatte, taking a little bit of red, mixing with a yellow and giving a thoughtful look at his canvas.