Originally from Kerala, Parvathi Nayar completed her first degree in visual arts at the Stella Maris College, Chennai. She returned to formal art education as a mature student on a Chevening Scholarship to Central Saint Martins, London. In the interim years, Nayar supplemented her art practice by working in advertising, animation, teaching and writing about cultural life both in India as well as in Jakarta and Singapore.
Nayar's art practice primarily focuses on drawing, integrating - on occasion - painting, video installations, and sculpture. "I started working on wood, transforming the drawing into objects. Somehow transferring drawings from paper to this material made it seem less ephemeral, more substantial somehow. I began making the work more complex, collaborating with architects and designers to create three-dimensional labyrinths that could house my drawings. I also used to collect these scientific drawings of particles in cloud chambers...These were particles so tiny they couldn't be photographed. Only their movement, their collision with other particles could be seen ... streamers so beautiful, recurring the presence of absence if you like", narrates Nayar.
She began transforming these images into drawings at a very small scale, as a rebellion of sorts. "Later I realised it wasn't the smallness I was interested in but in the scale, in the relationship and complexities between big and small. I also realised that even though drawing was the oldest art form, the images I was using were given to me by science, by cutting-edge technologies such as electron microscopes, heat imagery, NASA aircrafts and satellites ... So even when I am working on portraits, I am going inside to see what we humans are made of. At one level, the work is still a portrait, but it is interpreted through a prism of our time and age. Or when making landscapes, I am looking at the earth via satellite images and maps, constructing a narrative, however abstract, of what a country was, how it has changed, what borders meant and how these imaginary lines define, shape and contain human thought."
She describes her work as dwelling on the psychology of interior and exterior space, the nature of each of these and their relationship. Much of what Parvathi Nayar creates is underpinned by an intense curiosity about what she describes as the 'Big Questions' - Why are we here? What is the world made of? How does it work? Laughing, she explains, "These are really difficult questions to ask nowadays, especially in the realm of art and literature. I gradually came to believe that science had taken over these questions and so science became a prism by which to explore these spaces, to explain - even in fragmented ways - the exteriorities and interiorities of the world we live in, and translate them artistically.