Interview with Chandigarh Based Artist – Madan Lal

Interview with Chandigarh Based Artist – Madan Lal
‘Beautiful Chaos’! Those are the first words that come to mind when you look at work by Madan Lal, a promising Indian artist.

A closer look at his artwork takes you on a journey that you seem to have been missing since your childhood days. It’s calming, yet adventurous; his artwork draws you to pay attention to the fine details and the insinuations that have been planted across the canvas.

Once your eye has travelled through the four corner of the canvas, it seems like the journey needs to start again and explore something absolutely new.

Here is our interview with Madan, a poet and a painter, telling us about his journey as an artist.  

Calendars of Fantasy

While growing up in a small border town in Punjab, Madan was amazed to see his elder brother sketch the images of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh, with perfection. His simple pencil strokes were able to capture pure divinity on paper.

Following his brother, Madan, decided to do the same himself. Slowly his fascination moved towards the village scenes he saw in calendars at home. He wanted to bring the village woman to life through his paintings.

For Madan, those calendars were not mere dates and numbers, they were fantasies and dreams.

Failure, the way to Success

Like many parents, his parents, were not intrigued by his artsy pursuit. He was told, “What are you going to do with all this art?” Listening to his parents, he enrolled in a preparatory medical school after passing his 10th grade. But, he failed miserably!

During his preparatory medical school, all that he did was make sketches of all the female friends. He had no interest in learning about how to fix a human body, all he wanted to understand was human emotions and feelings.

He might have failed med school, but he was born for art. He got selected to enroll at College of Art in Chandigarh (city in India).Failure was after all not all that bad; it was a stepping-stone to success and happiness.

Ammunition of Expression

While in college, Madan enrolled in applied arts. While he was good with sketching and drawing, commercial art did not fit his fluid temperament and philosophical mindset. In those years he did not get to practice much paintings, but he found a deep passion for poetry. Words become his ammunition of expression.

Besides writing poetry, he became a voracious reader.

“In those days (1980’s), the Naxalite Movement was strong in Punjab. I started reading a lot of Russain literature. Often I could not grasp the complex message being conveyed, but it had a significant influence on my way of thinking. It helped me build a strong interest in literature.”

Intensive reading and writing brought a different dimension to Madan’s personality. He could now visualize things in a very different manner. Words became strokes of paint, which would come together to convey his message.

According to Madan, “When you read a lot, you become more aware of lifestyle, attitude, behavior and that helps your ability to visualize and imagine.”

Strong lines, shapes and motifs:

After finishing out from school, Madan joined an advertising agency as an illustrator. For three years he worked with multiple agencies. With his interest in music, ability to conjure ideas at his whim and skills to convert those ideas into visual stories, he was able to survive the cutthroat commercial industry. But, his heart was not there. There was more to his life than making banners and marketing material.

A new opportunity emerged for him to work with the Institute of Handicrafts under Punjab Government. His profile was to take traditional designs and modify them into modern designs. Experimentation and out-of-box thinking was a must for his job. The new designs and motifs he created were used by rural craftsmen to create beautiful handicrafts.

It was a long tenure at the institute, there he learnt a lot about life and perseverance. For 21 long years, his life revolved around geometrical shapes and designs. The influence this had on his artistic style is evident from his artwork. Strong lines, shapes and motifs, add an exquisite designer touch to his brightly colored artwork.

Finally, after years of working as a designer, he decided to take up a teaching role with NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology, Chandigarh). Working with students and sharing his expertise with them, he gets a sense of satisfaction that makes his life more fulfilling.

Art gives you Wings:

“Apna hi aasman ha, aoni hi manzil ha” (“Sky is ours and so is the journey”).

In the words of a true poet, Madan says that sky is our limit and the journey is for our choosing; why should we ever create barriers in our path to enlightenment.   

What he likes about art is that “Art gives you wings to fly. These wings are such that you can fly anywhere and no one can stop you. All it takes is a little bit of imagination.”

Being an artist allows him to observe and evolve the way he wants. The creative license gives him a sense of freedom and liveliness. He would not exchange the life of an artist for any other profession or paycheck.

Story of visual elements:


“My initial work was based on my personal journey, Sufism, music and relationships. It was all like a poem, revolving around my experiences.”

With strong literary experience and passion for poetry, it’s not surprising to see Madan’s work being woven into a story of visual elements. His main focus in all his artwork tends to be human energy, his surrounding and a positive aura.

Before starting a painting, Madan usually works on multiple drawings based on an idea. “I take a lot of elements from different drawing, think about how they fit together, keep some elements remove some. All these elements then interact amongst themselves, in a constant dialogue. It whole process of painting is dictated by those elements and often inspired by nature.”

Urban Phulkari:

There is a Hindu saying that to be born as a human, we need to go through 84000 yonis (or births) as different beings. But Madan, believes that its during a our lifetime that we go through all these phases without even realizing it. “Sometimes we feel free like a bird or wild like a bull. It all happens right here, on a daily basis.”

Inspired by this thought and the way people live in urban areas, Madan has conjured up his theme of ‘Urban Phulkari’ (urban landscape or urban spread). Just like an urban landscape, his canvas depicts different phases of society and its element. It shows people in different forms and state of mind, trying to be one with their surrounding. It shows how we are living with through different phases of our life, while trying to be an integral part of the ‘Urban Landscape’.

As Madan continues to experiment with his shapes, colors and poetic vision, we look forward to seeing some inspiring artwork from this emerging artist.


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