An Indian artist based in New York, Radhika Gupta-Buckley is lawyer-turned-artist who has been making artworks on race with bold patterns, saturated colours, and emotionally charged moods. After graduating with a double Bachelor in Law and Economics, and a Masters in Law (BC.L.) from The University of Oxford, she worked with Hague and the UN. Hailing from a family of art collectors, a keen interest in art was in her genes! Her other interests include chocolates, Muay Thai, and travelling. Read ahead as she talks about her art and her journey from a lawyer to an artist.
What got you into art?
Coming from a family of art collectors, my keen interest in art started at an early age. I have always been very creative and aesthetically inclined. I started painting when I was about six years old, perhaps earlier, and just continued with it. Constantly travelling and being exposed to different cultures allowed me to experience new ideas and influences, and my art became a secret language that I would use to communicate with myself.
This global pandemic has impacted us all in different ways, as an artist, how has it impacted your work?
This year has been a test for everyone’s mental health. For me, painting and creating is a part of my healing process. I’ve worked non-stop since the beginning of this rollercoaster ride. My latest collection entitled ‘To hug and to hold’ is what I’d describe as my ‘technicolour dream’. I want people to look at my work and forget their worries, even if just for a second. I want them to get involved in the story that I’m unfolding and form opinions – a balance between colourful seduction and informed debate. My work is all about bringing beauty and joy into the world, especially in today’s times!
What is it like for an Oxford-educated practitioner of law to turn to art?
Starting out as a lawyer, art was always secondary, something in the background for me. After finishing my degree at Oxford, I did a stint at the UNICTY and then returned to India and practised in the Supreme Court of India. I later joined a leading law firm, specializing in International Arbitration.
However, after a few years, I felt frustrated with the judicial system and felt almost helpless to fix the issues, so I began finding my refuge in painting. I held my first exhibition in 2017, which was inaugurated by the Cultural Minister of India. I displayed almost 30 pieces – my life’s work! The response was hugely positive, and I’ve never looked back.
Although from the outset it may seem as though I have taken the road less travelled by transitioning from a career as a lawyer to becoming a full-time artist, I just see it as a new chapter in my life. I believe it’s crucial to look within and listen to what your heart and mind are telling you to do. I want to paint, I want to tell my story through each stroke of the brush, and that is what I am doing.
The legal profession and the world of art sit on opposite ends of the spectrum. Law requires a completely pragmatic approach, whereas art is purely fantastical. How do you balance these two universes?
I think it is a myth that we are born with either an artistic or scientific mind-set. In life, we must follow our unique gift with all that we have to offer. We all have infinite potential; it’s about going after it. I choose to ignore the status quo and the more traditional way of doing things and feel like I flourish in multipotentiality.
What are the messages you portray through your artwork?
I specialize in painting works on race and identity with bold patterns, saturated colours, and emotionally charged moods. My paintings explore the status of women and men in the current socio-political climate and are filled with humour, sexuality, and empowerment.
What is one motto you live by?
Always remain defiant and challenge the status quo. I am a risk-taker and always have been.
What is the next trip that you plan on taking after the pandemic?
My husband and I live in New York City. As the summer has come to an end, we decided to chase the sunshine for a bit longer, so we’re going to spend six weeks in Tulum, Mexico from late September before heading to India for Diwali, and then later to Ireland for Christmas.
What advice would you give to all the budding artists out there?
I have two. Firstly, be patient because this industry is a hard one to break into. Secondly, it’s on you to get your name out there, so take time to build your brand online. - as told to Devanshi