Trader by day, painter by night

Having grown up in Calcutta with culture and creativity all around us, art has always been very close to my heart. I have always been a big fan and  keen supporter of the Bengali artists attending as many art shows in London when I can. Little did I know when I met the artist Shivani Mathur that she was born in Calcutta (although not a Bengali) and I didn’t even need to go as far as Mayfair to see her splendid works; she lived a stone’s throw from me.

In one phrase – Shivani Mathur is a trader by day and a painter by night. Shivani’s first recollection of herself painting was around the age of five.  While she never had any formal training in the arts, creativity was both in her blood and in her upbringing.  Her mother, a teacher and a talented artist fed them “art on a plate” – making mountains out of rice and sunrise out of eggs at supper time.  Shivani learned art privately with teachers, but ultimately doing an MBA in Finance in Mumbai.  She moved to London with Deutsche bank in 1997 and has since done a few courses in drawing – live, charcoal and pencil.

As I walked into Shivani’s flat I could smell art around me.  Small, medium and large canvases covered the walls and many were on the floor against the wall.  Shivani paints around a few themes – mathematics, the role of women in society (for anyone who knows the trading industry they will know how male dominated it is) and her love for colours, which bring her paintings to life.  She gave me a tour of her flat and I felt I was in Calcutta all over again. My favourite was a larger than life painting in her bedroom based on the Fibonacci series, the mathematical basis of all technical analysis in the trading world. Although inspired by trade, Shivani mentioned that Fibonacci governs many things in the world around us; bodily proportions in beautiful women (plastic surgeons use measures in Fibonacci), the pyramids of Giza, the spirals of shells, the curves of waves and even the face of Mona Lisa are in Fibonacci measurements. Through her paintings she also tries to depict the role of women in ancient and current times.  I absolutely loved her portrait of Nora, a key character in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, as a pretty girl with a blank face signifying what was demanded of women in those days and quite often to this day.  Her other paintings depicted attributes of a trader – thinking, waiting, simplicity and discipline – each being a separate painting, cities such as New York City and she even showed me two sets of chairs to show how she is extending her work outside of canvases.

Shivani primarily uses oil and canvas having expanded to charcoal. She was invited to be part of the Faberge Egg Hunt in February 2012 and her egg sculpture based on the Upanishads (ancient Indian philosophy) was auctioned and rated as the 3rd most collected egg in London.

During my visit, Shivani offered to donate two paintings to charities that I support, something I am extremely grateful for.  I left Shivani’s flat inspired that someone with such a busy life working in the City made the time to pursue something she was so passionate about. She was someone who drew inspiration from something she did during the day coupled with pertinent issues of today.  I have met many creative people most of whom operate in silos – this was the first time I had seen a great combination of arts and mathematics representing a lot of our external physical realities in a mathematical structure. “Abstraction of Precision”, as Shivani termed it.

*Shivani Mathur can be found here.

*Deepali Nangia works as a freelance business consultant helping entrepreneurs shape their ideas into businesses and their businesses into bigger ones!  Deepali also provides career guidance and counseling services.  She is a mother of two, loves the arts and is a strong supporter of women in business.  She can be found on or [email protected].  

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