Nadeem Chughtai Web Site

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Mummy, Daddy and Me
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My Sunshine


The Four Of Us

Coffee at 11


Half Empty


Just the One

In the spotlight


The Conversation


The Showman

A Swift Half
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Helping Hands
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By the River

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Stepping Stones
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Life Moves Pretty Fast
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The Line
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The Journey
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The Line


Nadeem Chughtai


I was born in Epsom in 1973 and grew up in Worcester Park in a loving family consisting of my English mother, Pakistani father and elder brother.

Encouraged by my parents, especially my mother, I started drawing at a very early age. My ability to draw came from my father. I would always seek his approval of my work and to this day value his knowledge and positive criticism.

At school art was my favourite subject, along with P.E. I therefore followed the natural route through GCSE to A level where I received a lot of encouragement from two wonderful teachers, Ms. Robertson and Ms. Slack. I remember Ms. Slack (an artist in her own right) showing me an image in order to inspire me when deciding on my final piece. The atmosphere and mood created in that piece had a very strong influence on all the work I produce to this day. I then went on to do a Foundation course at Epsom School of Art and Design - a great course involving lots of experimentation in all areas of art. This was followed by an Illustration course at Northbrook College in Worthing which left a lot to be desired, however, living for two years as a student in Brighton more than made up for it.

At college I was eventually put off of drawing when my tutors told me I was no good at it, even though I got top marks in my life drawing class. I never doubted my ability, but in defiance I vowed not to draw again, instead I would learn about photography and then become a film-maker, where I felt that I would have the widest audience possible.

In the summer of 1997 I got some work experience in the art department of The Avengers feature film. It was unpaid but I stayed for 6 weeks and was fascinated by all aspects of film making. It was there that I saw scenic art for the first time. These artists, usually only two of them, would paint the whole of Trafalgar Square on canvas 700ft long and 40ft high around the set. It was mind-blowing. I had to have a piece of that!

In 1999 I assisted an artist, Steve Mitchell, for a day on 102 Dalmations. We developed a good rapport and I eventually became his assistant, working with him and occasionally other artists for the next five years on many big budget films. What I learnt during this time with Steve was invaluable. I still now call him to pick his brain on any area I need advice on.

The film industry is very precarious, you have no way of knowing when or even if the next job will come, so in Dec 03 my partner at the time encouraged me to get a studio. It was then that I began producing my own paintings. I exhibited a few times and my work got a good response.

In July 05 I entered the New Artists competition at the NEC in Birmingham and won after which I took a publishing deal with Washington Green & so here I am.


1) Your colour pallette seems to change every few months. I was wandering what inspires these changes? Do they reflect changes in your life or are they merely experimental? Every piece of work I create reflects part of my life at that particular time.

They are also experimental yes. For example, my most recent pieces have one or more of my characters set on a completely white background. I decided to take away the 'setting' - no streets, buildings or interiors. I have simplified them even more. So now you have an anonymous character as you always have done but in an anonymous setting too. When you look at one of these pieces you cannot judge the person by how he or she is dressed, or if they seem to be smiling or frowning... You are not even informed of their whereabouts. You can only judge the characters by their body language and their interaction with other characters within the painting. Therefore, it is down to the viewer to decide what is going on. I myself know what I was thinking when i painted every piece. I know what each piece means to me... but what do YOU think? What does it say to YOU? That is all that matters to me.

2) How did painting film sets change or influence your art style?

I learnt so much during my 5 years of being an apprentice 'scenic artist' within the film industry. I learnt about artists, colour mixing, perspective, painting from dark to light, film making and the industry in general... the list goes on. I also learnt that being an artist is not simply a job but a way of life. On top of that I learnt that Anjelina Jolie is almost as attractive in real life as she is on screen!

3) Do you paint in other styles that your collectors may be unaware of? Art there other aspect to Nadeem Chughtai the artist?

There are many aspects to Nadeem Chughtai the artist, that's why it is always hard to answer these question briefly. I have always been able to draw - in the traditional sense and can produce very realistic pieces of work, be it portraits, still lifes or landscapes. Only this year I painted a four and a half foot square, head and shoulders portrait of my recently deceased Nan in Pakistan. I wanted to paint that piece in memory of her and for my family and my Father. My family love that piece, however while others might appreciate the technical skill of painting such a piece, it will not move them in any way beyond that. However, with the pieces I do that you know of, I hope I can move people in a way that they really connect with the character for whatever reason. Obviously not everyone will connect with every piece, but I hope that by the time I'm dead and buried I will have produced at least one painting for everyone. The character simply represents the human species and therefore I can use him or her as my tool to say whatever I choose. Because of this I hope my work will resonate with a wider audience. We are all guilty of judging people by their looks or appearance. These simple, yet complex characters that I paint prevent us from doing so and aim to show human beings, being human, and nothing else.

4) When you paint or sketch your character, do you already have a long running narative in mind before you put brush to canvas or are the scenes you paint based upon real life?

All of my work is based upon real life. I begin a new series of paintings by going out and about - to galleries, bookshops, sitting around, watching the world go by and thinking - thinking about what I am thinking. Then I write those thoughts in my sketchbook. Then I sketch an image that I feel shows that thought. There are occasions when I see something, like a child with his Mum having lunch and I sketch it. Sometimes I see myself from the outside, as if someone has taken a photo of me, and sketch that. But for the most part the thought or statement comes before the image.

5) What living or dead artists have influenced you, if any? It is quite evident that film plays a part too. Which classics have influenced your look?

I love film and on finishing college wanted to be a film director (that's how I got into the film industry in the first place). I figured that the best way to have your work seen by the largest audience was by making your own films and having them put in cinema screens all over the world. I wanted my work to be seen by everyone on the planet, and still do. However, once I saw the scenic backdrops being painted I was drawn back into the place where I belong - drawing and painting. When I first started to think about painting my own pieces in oil I stumbled upon an exhibition by a living artist named Donna Mclean, at a gallery in Cork St. Her work related very much to that of the backdrops I was working on for films. They had been painted from dark to light as you do in the film industry and as artists such as Rembrandt and Carrivaggio did. That work has a real effect on me because of the great drama you can create when you have such strong contrast in an image. My knowledge of art history is limited, but ever growing. One of my favorite paintings has to be 'The Supper At Emmaus' by Carrivaggio which can be seen at the National Gallery, London. Once I started painting, people likened my work to that of American 20th century realist painter, Edward Hopper, whom I knew nothing about at the time. I think it was the mood of the pieces and the isolation of the characters as well as a fascination with light and also with cinema. The film I wanted to have made when I saw it was 'La Haine'. I love everything about that film. Once I'd seen that I think I gave up on my dream of making films. I also love 'Cinema Paradiso', it's probably my favorite film of all time if I had to pick one. I am a fan of the Coen brothers' films, the shots they create with their cinematogaphers' are fantastic. Every shot is carefully composed and lit, so in effect you are watching a series of paintings for the whole duration of the film. I love music too, it inspires me also.

Then there are all the special people around me, friends and family, who continually inspire and influence me in many ways.

Nadeem Chughtai

23rd July 2008

30th July 2008

"I paint these faceless, colourless, plain and simple yet complex characters to remind everyone that we are all one species - human beings.

We all have strengths. We all have weaknesses.

Some of us are intellectual, some of us are entrepreneurial. Some are good listeners and some are good talkers. Some of us are technical and some of us are musical. Some are athletic and some are artistic.

No-one is perfect. Everyone is special."

Nadeem Chughtai 30th July 2008