Q. Tell us a bit about your journey as an artist?
Diba Mushtaq: I was born and brought up right here in Srinagar. Art has been a very intrinsic part of my growing up years. Since childhood I have dabbled with paints and colours. It was always clear to me that I would be exploring the arts throughout my life.
During my school years at Srinagar's Presentation Convent High School my creative pursuits were limited but putting paint to paper became a habit. The idea grew and I decided to pursue my undergraduate degree in Fine Arts from Jamia Millia Islamia.
The four-year program helped me understand my true calling. A degree in Arts has brought an inner flame into focus. Art and painting is an expression of my soul. The deep influence of the mesmerizing Kashmir valley has continued to be the central theme of my art. As the years go by, the many layered ethos of Kashmir has found its place in my art.
Q. Why Loul? What is the thought behind this exhibition
Diba Mushtaq: Loul is an indefinable Kashmiri word with nuances that are hard to capture. Only a native who has grown up in this soil will fully understand the layers of this emotion.
'Loul' my solo exhibition is my latest wandering into the heart of the valley to explore and express a yearning that all of us Kashmiris feel for their land. My father would hug me saying "Loul aaya tha".
Loul is that for me - a gentle, warm embrace. I live with my family in Delhi now but every year brings me back to Kashmir and it’s this ‘loul’ that pulls me back home. This exhibition is an outpouring of ‘loul’ for this beautiful land I was blessed to be born in.
Q. What inspires you about Kashmir?
Diba Mushtaq: There is no one thing and there is everything that inspires me about my Kashmir. Like every artist who has ever tried to capture this beautiful valley will tell you that the beauty around is irresistible and one wants to capture every frame that your eye sees.
From the alleys of the old city, to the monuments, the sufi shrines, the neighbourhood bakery, the Jhelum meandering through, the electric poles with innumerable wires enmeshed like our cultural ties, the narrow cobbled streets to the majestic mountains and the wide open skies. Add to that the memories associated with each of these places.
Q. Have you done exhibitions before?
Diba Mushtaq: Over the years I have done a few group exhibitions outside Kashmir but this is my first solo exhibition. As an artist, your art is very personal to you. It has shades of who you are and what you feel. I have worked on innumerable projects over the years, but this is the first time I felt a strong desire to share my 'loul' for Kashmir with others.
Q. A lot of artists rather go outside Kashmir to showcase their art. What made you do your first solo exhibition here?
Diba Mushtaq: No one understands Kashmir better than the people who live here. Yes, a lot of patrons love art outside but for my first exhibition, I felt no place better than home. Kashmir is my constant muse. This journey of my art had to start from where it all began.
Q. Do you feel artists from the valley get their due?
Diba Mushtaq: I feel if one is true to their art you will get your due sooner or later. A good artist cannot be hidden for long. I believe a lot of artists from Kashmir are recognised for their wonderful work. There are a lot of great artists in the valley and to a great extent social media has helped in the world getting to see their art. Borders are no longer a boundary.
Q. What are your biggest inspirations?
Diba Mushtaq: For an artist there is rarely one constant muse. I tried to find inspiration in the everyday things, in the most mundane and sometimes in the most extraordinary. It is never a constant. But yes my biggest influence has been this land that l was born in. Kashmir is my only constant. Kashmir is embedded in me. It invariably sneaks into every piece of art that I work on. Even if I am sketching a monument in Delhi, a little bit of Kashmir works its way into it.
Q. What is the advice you would give other young budding artists?
Diba Mushtaq: Being an artist is a blessing. I would tell all budding artists to be true to their style. Take inspiration but try to keep your originality intact. There is no right or wrong in art; it's an expression. It is your expression. So keep it real, keep it authentic. Be you in your art. And do it for the 'Loul' of it and nothing else.