Oil on canvas
62 x 68 in. (157.5 x 172.5 cm.)
Signed and dated 'ARPITA / SINGH / 2004' lower right
Submergence: In the Midst of Here and There, Arpita Singh Six Decades of Painting, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi, 30 January - 14 July, 2019.
Arpita Singh: Picture Postcard 2003-2006, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, 11 November - 6 December, 2006.
Arpita Singh: Picture Postcard 2003-2006, exhibition catalogue, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Dehi, 2006, p. 11, illustrated.
Throughout her artistic career Arpita Singh has developed a distinctive visual language and style, intermingling history and myth, fantasy and reality. She takes the complexities of the world and translates them onto her canvas, using what can be perceived as simplified forms which display a certain naivete, yet possess a sophisticated sensibility. Her canvases depict family, friends and neighbours surrounded by everyday objects such as plants, fruit, and cars, but in a manner that expresses a sense of wonder at the world around her. Frequently, these symbols of the mundane are numbered and titled, superimposed on calendar-like grids or maps as if to impose order to a seemingly random composition. Her experience as a textile designer, perhaps, influences the compositional structure of her canvases. The works can be both humorous and disturbing at the same time, frequently depicting her own very personal vision of the role of the female in contemporary Indian society.
Journeys are important to the artist, especially the memories of childhood journeys, particularly those tinged with doubt, fear or grief. Her journey as a child from Kolkata to Delhi shortly after her father's death has particular significance for her. 'Remembrances of it became subsumed in other journeys undertaken by individuals and groups. Memories and mappings of dislocations and discoveries, of nostalgia and pain, of excitement and anxiety have surged through her images. But Arpita Singh also responds to other dynamics in the world to the interface between time and space, between history and present context. In fact, she absorbs the complexities of the world and represents them in her own distinctive way through the sensuous use of paint and brush, signalling joy, wonder, menace and melancholy in an intricate kaleidoscope of human emotions.' (Ella Datta, Arpita Singh, Picture Postcard 2003 -2006, exhibition catalogue, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, 2006, p. 1)
Singh's works are often a commentary on the political environment and social injustices she saw around her, as well as interpretations on the structures of our domestic lives. These intimations of abuse, violence or injustices, are never directly represented in her works. Instead, her messages are expressed through subtle metaphors and encoded within the layers of her work. Here, unlike many of her paintings which are in an urban setting, we are confronted by a gathering of elderly people on the seashore. When looking at the current work, titled The Seashore, it is unclear what message she intends to convey. Neither the title of the work, nor the text contained within the painting, nor the repeated symbols of palm trees, custard apples and bouquets of flowers, held self-consciously by the men in the painting, offer any clarity. The artist has explained to Ella Datta that the imagery 'had been a germ in her mind but only took form after seeing a Turkish film' but offers no further explanation, for she relishes ambiguity and unusual transformations.
'Four women and nine men are seated and standing as if posing for a group photograph. Some of the figures are draped, others are naked. The male nudes stand with hieratic stiffness like Jain monks in traditional paintings and sculptures. The chairs on which the figures sit are bright red. In the foreground, there is a vivid pink floral carpet as is often seen in Arpita's earlier works. There is a border of pink and blue flowers on the side, and along the lower edge there is a border of custard apples and palm trees, which are new in her repertoire of motifs. In the distance there is a strip of sand and sliver of blue sea with a little white boat floating like a toy. Arpita who has often located her images in the dense urban jungle or charming, interior domestic spaces, has wafted her characters to the seashore. The narrative embedded in the scene is intriguing. Who are these men and women - family friends, and inmates of an old age home? Each individual has a story masked by a stoic demeanour. It is a human drama that invites gentle probing.' (ibid., p. 4)
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About The Artist:
ARPITA SINGH (b. 1937)