First exhibition: Geneva doctor displaying artwork at Rochester gallery

Story by SUSAN CLARK PORTER            scporter@fltimes.com             May 5, 2013

GENEVA — As a doctor steeped in science and surgery, Nitin Banwar has found a perfect counterbalance with his art.

Although the 61-year-old has been drawing and painting his entire life, he is just now is holding his first exhibit. His “Mythologies and Cultures” exhibition is on display this month at the Gallery at The Arts & Cultural Council in Rochester.

When Banwar arrived in the U.S. in the mid-1970s as “a penniless immigrant” awaiting his green card, he began painting seriously. During that time he worked for a frame shop in Atlanta.

“You try and survive whichever way you can,” he said, calling that time “the most influential” on his artistic career.

Art faded somewhat when Banwar completed his graduate training in orthopedic surgery and embarked on a medical career. Today, he is an orthopedic surgeon and medical director of the Joint Center of the Finger Lakes at Geneva General Hospital.

Although busy with his medical career, Banwar has a studio at his Canandaigua home where he works in spurts — mainly when the creative urge moves him.

“When it’s something that you like to do, you quite honestly make the time,” Banwar said.

Banwar’s work today is primarily mixed media in nature, involving collages, drawing and cutting out and gluing objects on varying surfaces, including plywood. For several years he has been collaborating with Tony Dungan of Rochester. The two became acquainted when it was suggested to Banwar that he digitally archive his work; Dungan, an artist in his own right who has painted for 30-plus years, works for the commercial printing company Excelsus Solutions.

Dungan photographs Banwar’s original art pieces, as well as industrial objects like prostheses that are then incorporated into a final project. The two then sit down at a computer together and manipulate the pieces of the puzzle, isolating different elements into a final creation.

“It’s like we’re painting digitally,” Dungan said.

The two have collaborated on about 15 or 20 pieces … and not all are on paper. Dungan mentioned some of Banwar’s images were printed on silk and made into scarves.

Banwar often uses opaque ink, as well as a scalpel to cut paper to create his collages, said Dungan, who says such an approach illustrates Banwar’s talents.

“I think he’s interesting because he’s not locked into a brush and paint,” he said. “He’s adapted his skills as a surgeon into the art world.”

Banwar’s Indian heritage is a strong influence, from the colors he uses to the mythology he pulls from, Dungan added.

Banwar agrees he has “an interesting style,” and said the collaboration with Dungan has worked well.

In his artist statement at www.masterprintgallery.com, Banwar discusses how his multicultural background also influences his art. Of Indian origin, his father was in the Indian Navy. The family moved frequently and was exposed to many cultures. His life has been a balancing act between the East and West; Banwar came to the U.S. via Sweden, and today his siblings live in Australia, India and Sweden.

A guiding principle in Banwar’s life is balancing the objective, his scientific profession, with the subjective, his art. He sees those same elements at play in his hobby as an instrument-rated pilot.

“The balance of objective and subjective, it’s very important to me,” Banwar said.

Equally important is the opportunity to show his work publicly. He said this exhibit features about 15 pieces of his fine art made throughout his life and 10 of the collaborative digital pieces.

“I reached the stage of my life when I just had to get it done,” he said of the exhibit, likening it to crossing off an item on his bucket list. “When all is said and done and I’m gone … what will I leave behind? These [pieces of art] will always be something uniquely mine. How many artists start off showing their work at 61?

“If not anything, I am having a lot of fun.”

• • •

Banwar’s artwork will be for sale and proceeds will benefit the Finger Lakes Health Foundation and the Orthopedic Research and Education Foundation.