The words of the great poet Kabir, the silence of a 12-year-old and Mahatma Gandhi’s footsteps are some of the sources from which artist Shambhavi Singh drew inspiration for the works featured in Lullaby, an exhibition currently on at the Talwar gallery in New Delhi. Her Ghatak series is based on Kabir’s interpretation of the world being encompassed in the darkness of the ghatak (pot). The cosmos is projected in brilliant colours against a black background. The fact that she paints each canvas with a bright colour before painting it completely black shows in her paintings, as does the layering of paints.
When Singh started painting her palette was dominated by black, but over the years she has begun using other dominant colours in her work as well. Deafening Silence of Void is one such example where she moves away from black to blue. The entire canvas is a sea of blue amidst which a single ear of a child is visible. Singh was inspired by the story of a 12-year-old boy who lost his ability to hear and speak after the bomb blasts in Mumbai in 1993. “He was separated from his family and was wandering on the railway platform. The blue light represents sleep and is almost like a big sound that he cannot hear,” she says. The ear is also inspired by the line sketches of Gandhi who is another big influence in her work.
Her memories from her stint as an artist in residence in Cape Town, South Africa has ensured a connection with Gandhi. One of her works is the khadau (wooden slippers) moulded in brass with a map of India and South Africa etched on its inner sole. “This I made when Gandhi’s birthday was announced as the international day of non-violence last year. Being in one of the last countries to be free from colonial rule also made me understand Gandhi better. This is about the journey he made for peace,” she says.
What’s the one thing that she has gained from her travels and exhibitions around the world? “I am always inspired by the presentation of art in museums abroad and finally now I can see that in our country as well,” she adds.
Lullaby is on at the Talwar Gallery till 15 June.