Inevitably, my background influences what and how I paint. I was born of Bengali-Indian parents. My father’s family were living in what is now Bangladesh but was still part of British India in the 1930s. His parents died when he was young and as a teenager, his oldest brother sent him to Malaysia to live with another older brother. He worked for Dunlop as an accountant on their rubber plantations. In the late 1930s he went back to his area of birth and married a young Bengali woman and took her to Malaysia to set up home. My two brothers and I were born during the end of World War 2 and we grew up on rubber plantations: elephants, pythons and other animals were familiar to us as children. I came to love the jungle and the rivers that provided an alternative transport system to roads. That must have been where water, boats and small harbours began to intrigue and inspire me.
My secondary schooling had to be away from home, in a Catholic boarding school on the coast in Melaka (Malacca), a historic colonial port on the shores of the Straits of Melaka. My love of the sea and ports/harbours sprang from those years. The early years of my first marriage were spent in India, mainly New Delhi. My love of street scenes and people hurrying about their urban lives began in Melaka but was certainly strengthened by the hustle and bustle of Delhi!
I returned to Malaysia and ran my own business as an educational counsellor advising and recruiting Asian students to British universities. That was how I met my husband, Adrian Webb – then Vice Chancellor of the University of Glamorgan in South Wales. I came to live in Wales in 1993 and I began to be inspired by the land, sea and cityscapes of Europe, especially France. But our fascination for different cultures and ways of life led us to travel widely through Europe; North, South and Central America; Africa; Central, South and South-East Asia. Together we have travelled very extensively.
My background is nothing if not multi-cultural: a Hindu Bengali-Indian (and my parents were very proud of their Bengali heritage); born and educated in Malaysia – a Muslim country which has a large Chinese population (and I had a Chinese sister-in-law); schooled by Catholic nuns; and I have fully embraced life in Wales. Our immediate family is English, Welsh, American, Malaysian, Indian, Chinese and Polish. I speak 5 languages and the family spans four world religions!
Little bits of this geographical and cultural diversity are scattered throughout my paintings, but usually as influences and side references. Painting is about expressing my loves, interests and observations of the rich variety of life, but not as precise representation of specific places and people – we have photographs for that!