Anu Bhat, the founder of virtual gallery and art consultancy The Rural Painter, has lived an international life: She was born in England, where she lived until she was 15. She and her family then moved to Bombay, and once she met her husband, they embarked to Hong Kong, then later New York City and New Jersey.
While she was in New Jersey, Bhat, a PR and marketing executive, first ventured into the art world when she opened Smudges & Strokes, an art school for children inspired by her son's love of drawing. "We were filling a need in the market," she tells SEEMA.
When Bhat and her husband later moved to Singapore for four years, she sold the art school to a local parent. It was there, in Singapore, that Bhat fell in love with South Asian art, and the idea for The Rural Painter was sparked.
"We traveled throughout Southeast Asia: Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam," she says. "I saw the amazing art that artists there were creating, and wondered how I could help them. So I put myself through business school and started The Rural Painter in 2016."
Today, from her home base back in New Jersey, Bhat not only consults and sells art to clients through The Rural Painter, but has also participated in more than 20 charity galas, putting art up for auction to raise money for a cause. Before the COVID pandemic hit, she was planning an event in March called A Journey Through Asia. The ticketed event would have showcased the countries she's traveled to, including a reproduction of a Vietnamese street market, Southeast Asian food, and Indonesian and Nepali dance performances. The event was sadly cancelled due to coronavirus, but Bhat continues her work.
SEEMA chatted with Bhat recently about South Asian art and the future of The Rural Painter.
What do you love most about South Asian art?
AB: It's very spiritual art. Each artist is trying to push their boundaries, pushing themselves to be different. One will create a textured background, then paint over it to give the painting a sculptural effect. Another makes global warming the theme of their work. They're using art as a voice.
What's the most rewarding part of your work?
AB: Giving a platform to these artists. I'm in touch with them on email so they know when i’m having a show or exhibition, so they know when their pieces are sold. I actually buy from the artists outright, so they’ve already made a sale. I give them a platform, and their art brings joy into people’s homes here. I get testimonials that say, 'I can feel the energy from this painting' or 'The piece makes me smile.' The art is bringing the world closer and helping us transcend borders.
How can art help us during the pandemic?
AB: Art is calming and meditative: It allows you to pause and relax. Art has been known to center a person, especially the mandalas i bring back from Nepal. The yogis meditate to the mandala. It can help steady your breathing and regulate your pulse rate. Art definitely helps your overall well-being.
What are your dreams for The Rural Painter?
AB: We are looking at expanding and maybe even doing tours to the country that I visit. It might have to be well into the future.
Please join SEEMA and Anu Bhat for the SEEMA Virtual Happy Hour celebrating South Asian Art on Friday, May 22 at 6 pm ET. RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org.