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Arpita Singh

Indian Contemporary Artist
Born 1937, Bara Nagar, West Bengal, India
Lives and works in New Delhi

Arpita Singh's paintings are a reflection of the life of 'real' women and the emotions that she exchanges with these subjects. She paints in bright appealing hues and often employs traditional Indian forms and aesthetics in her artworks. Described majorly as a figurative and a modernist, Singh has set the record price achieved by an Indian woman artist at an auction globally.



Diploma in Fine Arts, School of Art, Delhi Polytechnic, New Delhi

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Singh depicts the life of women in India and the world

In some of her paintings, the woman is portrayed nude not to highlight the sexual aspect but to display her vulnerability in relation to her surroundings. She sees culture and tradition as being passed along from woman to woman, mother to daughter, just like the age-old rituals performed by Bengali women for the welfare of their families. About her paintings of women, Singh has said, "Glamorous women with hour-glass shapes are for film and television. I paint real women." Her depiction of women is in no way limited to a simple narrative, but essentially weaves a multi layered commentary around the problems faced by her kind each and every day. By painting a wide range of shared emotions, she is able to reflect herself in her artworks and maintain a conceptual involvement with them.

Apart from her modernist-figurative oeuvre, Singh is known to use traditional motifs in her art as well. The way in which she uses 'perspective' is an attempt to keep alive her background training in traditional Indian arts and aesthetics.

Arpita Singh, B for Boxes, 2007, watercolor on paper, 30 x 22.5"

Themes like terrorism, immigration and war feature in her works

Despite their positive visual aura, Singh's works speak volumes about the impinging violent threats in our day to day external environment. Through her depictions, she silently rings the alarm bell about concerns which need to be dealt with urgently. 'The Lily Pond' is such a work that speaks about the violence in the world. It touches upon the fallout of 9/11 and the US imposition of the Patriot Act . The North American map is shown as a juxtaposition of the lily pond where everyone wants to be the soldier fighting an unseen enemy.

Arpita Singh, My Lily Pond, 2009, oil on canvas, 84 x 108"

A profusion of blues and pinks dominate her paintings

Initially she started painting Bengali folk art with water colours on paper but later made a dramatic shift to painting figurative works with oil on canvas. Singh applies an interesting technique of cloaking motives with the help of a vibrant color palette. By juxtaposing bright patches of pigments, tones or regular objects along with sinister ones such as guns, soldiers or killers hidden behind bushes in a park, Singh is able to display her thought process as well as give voice to her fears without directly addressing them.

Arpita Singh, This Could be Us, You or Anybody Else, 2007, etching on paper, 23.5 x 28.5"

Highest priced painting made by an Indian woman artist

Arpita Singh is the first Indian woman artist whose work "Wish Dream" sold for a record price in an auction globally. A practicing artist since 1972, Singh has been regularly featured in shows of Indian Art in the country and abroad.

After it sold for a whopping price of $2.24 million at the Winter Online Art Auction organized by Saffronart in 2010, 'Wish Dream' helped Singh to bring the focus of the art market back to female artists. The work is a monumental mural that is set up on sixteen individual canvas panels of varying dimensions. The artist has used a variety of bright colors such as blues, yellows and pinks as well as various objects and motifs like aircraft and cars, guns, floating flowers, numbers, text, and figures.

She says " The mural displays the dreams and wishes of a woman (within our society) and how it progresses and the way it's related to other women through rituals." She found inspiration for this painting from a Tibetan Play, and is one of the largest paintings she has made till date.

Arpita Singh, Wish Dream, 2000-2001, oil on canvas, 287 x 159"

Arpita is often called the accidental artist

On her father's death, Arpita Singh and her mother moved from Kolkata to the bengali Market in central Delhi, where she witnessed the violence of independence and partition from her balcony. Violence appears in her works subtly, horror and beauty intermingling. In her childhood, paper being extremely expensive, Singh drew on newspapers and industrial catalogue. For this reason the artist shows an early maturity of mingling text and image. She studied art at the Delhi Polytechnic, where she was taught eminent artists of emegent India and met her husband Paramjit Singh. In her youth, her works were inspired by Paul Klee and Kandinsky. She is few of the rare female artists from her genration that has been duly recognised.

In this work her early influences of text and violence can both be seen as she depicts the violence rendered by American soldiers in Guatnamo Bay.