From New York to New Delhi, from studying art history to painting full-time, life's certainly come full circle for artist Harsh Nambiar. Drawn to painting from a very early age, he ended up starting his career with various jobs in the art world until 2016 when he finally decided to pursue his calling as an artist. The multi-disciplinary artist dabbles in new as well as traditional media and often brings his disciplines to design, architecture and fashion projects. For our first Men of Lune story, the artist turns muse in our Holiday Release as he reflects on the years and the year gone by and the holidays that are to follow.
Photography: Aditi Tailang | Interview: Shweta Vepa Vyas
Pictured above: Harsh wears our Divided signet ring and Juana goddess circle ring
How has 2020 treated you?
It's been a bit of a rollercoaster, but I'm here in one piece!
Tell us a little about your initiation into art and your journey so far…
I've been painting from a young age. I was lucky to attend a high school with beautiful art studios and inspiring teachers—painting really became a huge part of my identity in those years. By the time I graduated from school, my interests became more academic. I went on to study art history at university and spent a few years working in various art world jobs. I essentially took a seven year break from making art, choosing instead to just be around art and talk about it—a scenario that just never felt right. This period (which felt like a kind of painting exile) ended in 2016 when I moved to New Delhi and finally decided to pursue a career as an artist.
You graduated from Columbia University in 2012. How has the experience shaped you as an artist?
My artistic growth at Columbia was more academic than practical. Studying art history gave me a greater sense of context and a deeper understanding of what art means to society and the individual. It also gave me a huge bank of ideas and images that I can refer to as I carve out my paintings.
Additionally, being in New York gave me the opportunity to be around and learn from some brilliant contemporary artists. I worked as a studio assistant for several years which allowed me to partake in all stages of the process, from stretching canvases to shipping off completed works. This is where I gained a lot of the practical knowledge I use in my studio to this day.
Pictured above: Harsh wears our Rosalia celestial ring and Night of the blue moon rings together with an assortment of necklaces including our Glossy viper gold necklace, Moss ring necklace and Night of the blue moon necklace.
I'm a painter first—it's the medium I always return to. I am deeply invested in its rich history and I am equally in awe of its endless potential. Oil paint is my vehicle to put my ideas out in the world. The physicality of the medium is crucial in this. Paintings are physical objects, not merely images. When you stand in front of a painting, its material properties, scale etc all have an impact on you. Looking at a photo of a painting on a phone just doesn't do the trick!
My work in other mediums is secondary but I do enjoy it all. Your progress in one medium will inevitably influence the others in a positive way. The process of translating ideas across mediums opens up a lot of possibilities.
Pictured above: Harsh wears our Rosalia pearl celestial signet ring and Spine pearl pendant necklace and Pedro chain necklace.How do you approach a project? What is your process?
My process is more intuitive than methodical. When I start a painting, I might have some general ideas for the direction I want to travel to, but the final destination is not something I try to visualize strongly. I like to allow ideas and tangents to emerge as I go along—the process is part exploration, part problem solving. This way of working can be extremely challenging and frustrating, but ultimately, it’s also the most liberating path.
Who is someone you’re currently inspired by?
Nicole Wittenberg. She's a fabulous painter based in New York. She's also a dear friend and mentor who has helped me grow as a painter.
Pictured above: Harsh wears our Juana goddess circle ring and Divided signet ring.
How would you describe your fashion aesthetic?
I'd say I keep it pretty simple these days. I love clothes that are well-made and designed to last—basically, things that gain character with time. I've been wearing the same pair of leather shoes almost every day for the last four years and they still look and feel great!
Is there one piece of jewellery in your closet that triggers fond memories?
I have a pair of cuff-links made for me by someone very special. They are gold-plated and shaped like snake vertebrae.
Pictured above: Harsh wears an assortment of our rings—Juana goddess circle ring, Divided signet ring, Night of the blue moon ring and Rosalia pearl celestial signet ring.
Do you have any holiday/ December rituals or memories from your upbringing that you’ve carried forward into adulthood? How are you planning on approaching NYE this year?
I can't say I have rituals. Also, this holiday season is going to be all work—I'm hoping to get my newest set of paintings ready by the end of the month, for which I'm very excited.
Can you describe your experience with 2020? What were your days like? What did you read? What did it teach you or bring to the surface on a mental or spiritual level?
Like everyone, I had to adapt. I couldn't access my studio for a large chunk of the year so I had to keep the ball rolling from my desk at home. It ended up being a very productive time—I made a lot of progress with my 3D software projects and levelled up my digital painting skills. I didn't read as much as I would have liked to but there was a book of Frank O'Hara poems that I particularly enjoyed.
Pictured above: Harsh wears our Gold spine pearl necklace, Homecoming mini key charm necklace and Mini crescent moon necklace.
As an artist, what first comes to your mind when you look at Lune?
There's a sculptural quality to the pieces. I'm also fond of the abstract organic forms like the Gold Spine Pearl pendant.
Pictured above: Harsh wears our Pedro Chain, Night of the blue moon necklace, Glossy viper gold necklace, Gold Spine Pearl Necklace, Night of the blue moon ring and Rosalia pearl celestial signet ring.
About the author: Over the last decade and a half, Shweta has worked with leading Indian publications—she writes on beauty, design, art and lifestyle as and when her children allow it.