Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A sensitive female artist with unique oeuvre

Described as a figurative artist and a modernist, Arpita Singh still makes it a point to stay tuned to traditional Indian art forms and aesthetics like miniaturist painting and folk art. The way in which she uses perspective and the narrative in her work is steeped in the miniaturist traditions and a reflection of her background. Known to create deeply and intensely personal works through a mélange of images and signs she has developed over close to five long decades of practice. Her highly intricate and multi-layered paintings are often autobiographical in nature, with subtle references to myth and history, nuances of traditional art, current happenings, and traces of popular culture.

She first studied at Delhi School of Art under the keen eye of artist Sailoz Mookherjea, before joining the Weaver's Service Centre in Kolkata and Delhi. She staged an exhibition of her works in 1960 with a group of artists who termed themselves ‘The Unknown’. She designed textiles in the mid-1960s and had her first solo at Delhi’s Kunika Chemould Art Centre in 1972. Since then her work has been featured at major art venues in Indian and internationally.

For an artist who effortlessly merges everyday life and allegory, expressionism and ornament, who harks back to historical folk and miniature painting, her formal approach is at once unassuming and painstaking, somewhat femininely gauche and pensively poised. Her paintings seem to be bursting at the seams with teeming life forms and objects or motifs as icons of contemporary life.

Soaked in subtle shades of watercolors and oils, Arpita Singh simulates a dream-like realm, or perhaps a scenario recreated while hallucinating. A price tag of Rs 9.6 crore (close to $2.25 million) for her ‘Wish Dream’, a monumental (16-piece; 24-by-13-ft) mural, broke quite a few records in 2010. The price was the highest ever for a work by an Indian female artist to be offered in auction at that point of time.

About her thought process, she has been quoted as saying, “I am a woman. I think as a woman. I see as a woman. My references are always feminine. This is the starting point.” She tends to see both tradition and culture as being keenly passed along from one woman to another, say mother to daughter, as in the ancient rituals carried out by Bengali women for the well being of their respective families.

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