Paint flowers and, as a female artist, you risk being pigeonholed as, well, a female artist. Aditi Singh’s stark charcoal and ink drawings, currently on display at Chemould Prescott Road gallery, easily subvert that glib categorization. Much like Georgia O’ Keeffe, who famously used vividly-hued flowers to challenge representations of nature, Singh adapts what she sees, using half-finished buds and floating flowers as a means of expression. “I look at flowers as a metaphor for life,” she says. “They exist in certain moments and, yet, are gone so quickly.”
The 31-year-old artist has spent the last 10 years working with forms of nature and, amazingly, paints from memory rather than from sight. Sparsely rendered and tightly executed, some canvases are mere blobs of black ink, others, heavily reworked fragments of exotic dried flora from Madagascar and Ecuador.
And, like the best artists, Singh’s organic compositions are anchored with visual and literary references, drawing on texts as varied as Henry Miller’s essays, (from where the name of the exhibit is derived), to poems by Persian mystic Farid al-Din Attar.
“It’s all about distillation,” says Singh, who begins each work by putting down what she remembers, and then revisiting each canvas, erasing, smudging, and subtracting. Perhaps even more amazing is Singh’s thrifty use of colour: 7ft-long sheets of paper are left blank, save for pale hints of petals, a series of 45 works on parchment paper are dotted with tiny birds and leaves. “I think of colour as gravity and weight, which is why I use it so sparingly,” says Singh, who has spent the last 15 years jumping between India, Europe and the US, where she worked briefly at a gallery in New York. The Guwahati-born artist has exhibited the world over, including Nature Morte in New Delhi. Gallery owner Peter Nagy says of her: “She’s young, she has potential, and handles herself professionally.” Her works, which sell for Rs1.5-7 lakh, will next be seen at The National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo this September.
Stand Still Like the Hummingbird will be on view at the Chemould Prescott Road gallery until 11 April.