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Shambhavi Singh

Indian Contemporary Artist
Born 1966, Patna, Bihar, India
Lives and works in New Delhi

Shambhavi Singh’s oeuvre is a mix of paintings, installations and sculptures. Her works focus primarily on nature and rural workers. The toil of the farmers and their efforts in tilling and cultivating the land is portrayed through her paintings. The artist’s creations express a culture that is rooted in her native land, Bihar. So, her paintings give voice to the marginalized classes by representing their major contribution to the society and its people.

Education

1992

Master of Fine Arts (Painting), College of Arts, New Delhi, India

1986

Bachelor of Fine Arts (Painting), College of Fine Arts & Crafts, Patna, India

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LIFE AND WORK

UNDERSTANDING Shambhavi Singh

Her works are drawn from multiple mediums and sources

Singh makes an effort to open viewers to the propositions that might flow from diverse connections. The artist cites both the 15th century mystic Kabir and a scene from Satyajit Ray’s film, 'Pather Panchali', as her inspirations.

She mentions a poem that explores the fundamental components of a 'ghatak' or pot - clay and space - to explore the gamut of human experience. We, of course, are the original clay vessels. The scene from Pather Panchali takes us to a related area: an eye appears, blinking in the darkness, leaving the film-goers momentarily confounded as to context, before another frame reveals that the peeper belongs to a girl who is looking into a ghatak . The corollary: for an instant, we, the audience, were part of the dark interior void into which the child peered - perhaps, even, we were the void (adapted from Sara Bancroft, Lullaby, Talwar Gallery, New Delhi, 2008.

Shambhavi Singh, Dhibri Do/Wicks 2, 2011, works on paper, pigmented paper pulp applied on pigment stained STPI handmade paper, 54 x 69”

Singh uses color to convey her deep emotions and sensations

Singh’s artworks are centered on the struggles of the farmers. She uses earthy colors to reflect her dominant feeling of the agrarian setup of Bihar. These colors bring about the deep connection of the artist with the earth and its elements. Fire, water, sky and earth all have equal stake in her creative endeavors - thus showing that the sky is her horizon, literally!

The color black in her artworks suggests a ceaseless and ever-expanding cosmos which may seem empty and void at first sight, but Singh believes in making meaning out of this nothingness. Every color holds a symbolic meaning for Singh. Hazy colors depict tremulousness and unsteadiness, possibly lending a depressing background to the uneasy life of the migrants and weary travelers. Dark colors reflect positivity and a possibility of growth and renewal. As a child, her eyes witnessed a lot of natural beauty around her ranging from the time spent on river banks to running and playing along paddy fields. The recollection of Singh’s childhood memories of nature is similar to those experienced by Wordsworth in his poems. Thus, the artist chooses the right colors to depict the right mood in synchronization with the dominant theme of her artwork.

Shambhavi Singh, Earth (A Watch), diptych, 2001, oil, acrylic & graphite on canvas, 84 x 129”

Singh's works present a picture of hopefulness, not hopelessness

The question is if Singh emphasizes so much on the melancholic life of the farmer in her works, then why doesn’t she draw the tensed/ despairing/ cowering human figure on her canvas? This is definitely a deliberate strategy on her part as she wants to convey the fact that the role of the farmer is not attributed any significance. He is just another simpleton and a poverty stricken man. The artist, through the farmer’s tools reminds us of his presence and prominence. She tells us about this man and his toilsome labors along with his position in society. A figure which is so central to human life is shifted to the periphery and is given a marginalized status in society.

Through her large-format paintings depicting nebulous skies, and her immaculate sculptures bearing cyclical shadows, the artist entices her viewer into a journey of self-exploration, bringing back countless memories of survival and livelihood.

Anjor Teen’ and ‘Dhibri Ek’, part of the “Illumination series” emphasize on the tempestuous life of the farmers striving to attain the minimal that he can, for himself and his family. The oil wick bottles and bowls used for sustenance and energy in the artist’s works depict transitory aspect in the lives of these people. Yet, some hope remains alive in the hearts of these people who are not known as individuals, but are only identified through the other, that is, their tools and other agricultural objects.

Shambhavi Singh, Khet Kyaari/ Furrow, 2011, handmade cast paper pulp, 52 x 264”

The artist magnifies the object to give it a deep philosophical meaning

By magnifying the little beej/seed, the artist gives it a larger than life image. The Beej is akin to a womb which gives birth to a new life and initiates a new beginning. The ‘seed’ is a carrier of life and a farmer’s task is to take care of that seed to help it bloom and blossom. For Singh, every object has a point of origin. If a flower blossomed from a little seed, similarly, even the cosmos exploded out of something. For the artist,any flowering is monumental, be it the cosmos or the little plant seed .In her work Beej Brahmaand/Cosmic seeds, Singh transforms and magnifies the little seed and gives a new spatial definition to it. The seeds are no more dispersed on the agricultural field, but are spread on the walls like stars in the sky. They are no longer small in size, but have expanded in the limitless horizon. The artist in giving a new shape, size and a spatial location to the seeds accords the most prominent role to the seed which is also a life giver.

Shambhavi Singh, Beej Brahmaand Do/Cosmic Seeds Dark, 2011, handmade cast paper pulp, etching and thread, dimensions variable.

The artist's upbringing and background influenced her works

As a child growing up in rural Bihar, Shambhavi Singh spent most of her time outdoors. This became responsible for not only shaping her chemistry with nature, but also influenced her to such an extent that most of her works focused on the themes of nature. Singh continues to ground her work in her upbringing in Bihar, which she said “nurtured and evolved creative language.

The artist was exposed to the joys and pains of the farmers in her early childhood days. The various tools that Singh sketches not only reflect the farmer’s affinity to nature, but also hint at his vulnerability as he’s solely dependent on land and its outcomes which will give him and his family some means to survive. Thus, the artist’s personal experience with nature helps her sow a new language of creativity in her works and becomes symptomatic of the deep connection that she shares with nature.

Shambhavi says - After sunset, the darkness without any electricity had its own beauty. I could see the real colours of dawn and dusk without any artificial light around. So a lot of my early canvases had huge splashes of black because I was trying to show the beauty in that darkness . [Also] I come from a rural background, so my village and the fields have been my visual inspirations. Something as simple as the play of light inside the dark water well has fascinated me as a young girl.

Shambhavi Singh, Hasiya/Sickle, 2011, sulphur tint and lithography on hand made paper, 40 x 50”

Bibliography