Page 1

August 24, 2008

[PREM SINGH / CONTEMPORARY ARTIST / NEW DELHI, INDIA]

PREM SINGH / CONTEMPORARY VISUAL ARTIST / NEW DELHI, NDIA

Contemporary New Delhi artist, Prem Singh, was born at Patiala in Punjab, India, on 15 April 1943. A graduate from Panjab University, Chandigarh, India, in 1972, Prem Singh was the Principal at the Government College of Art, Chandigarh (year) and ex-member of the Advisory Committee, National Gallery of Modern Art (Year), and the General Council, National Academy of Art, at New Delhi (year), and ex-member of the General Council, North Zone Cultural Centre, Patiala, India (year). More importantly, he was painterly, creating visuals of visions of profound depth. There may be nothing unique in the forms he uses. Yet with his visualized components, 65-year-old Prem Singh, forges a personal signature or calligraphy that is uniquely his. Organically aware of empty space, Prem clears the space for art. This is essential to his art form so that his imagination can spontaneously arise. This is not only true craftsmanship; this is the journey an intuitive artist takes to engender the soul. Needing creative challenges, Prem meets his master for the first time, that is, over the recent five years. Who is his master? None other than Prem himself. When he articulates, “I want to create my own lion,” he is expressing his inner aspiration and fulfillment, a victory through might, an advancement through bold action, and a change through force. Thusly, he taps into his soul’s messenger, and he 1

An informal interview by an artist of an artist | Armida Nagy Stickney with Prem Singh


August 24, 2008

[PREM SINGH / CONTEMPORARY ARTIST / NEW DELHI, INDIA]

creates a new direction with the delicacy of a poet. Through the lush formality that imbues his art, he has discovered the 1001 encounters with himself and the world around him. Between the empty space of his canvas and the clarity of his experience with emptiness, Prem pronounces a creativity of dancing lights—or wings of fire--as his new language of form. Prem writes on the techniques and themes of his present work: Nature seems like an inexhaustible resource. It remains a major source of inspiration for humanity, and whose divine and celestial chorus is ever rejuvenating. Lyrical designs weaved in patterns weaved in space and earth create a magical spell on the human mind attuned to the beauty and purpose of nature. My paintings reflect on such playful, and purposeful, moments that I experience through my dialogue with manifest and the unmanifest in Nature. I am now like a bird that can fly free through line, form and colour. What I seek in my artistic expressions is silent activity not easily discernible to the eye but can be experienced in contemplation. In such moments of creativity my whole being is transformed into a plant that grows every minute by remaining firmly rooted to the soil. This feel of eternity and silent activity gives wings to my imagination. And that inspires me to tune the rhythmic visual voice and its subtle nuances in consonance with my heartbeat. It is my humble attempt at 'grasping' joy and life as they fly.

Flora has a special meaning for Prem. “It is the silent activity that I experience in flora, which grows every minute by remaining firmly rooted to the soil. This give wings to my imagination & inspires me to tune the rhythmic visual voice and its subtle nuances in consonance with my heartbeat. It is my humble attempt at ‘grasping’ joy as it flies.” When Prem Singh tapped into his lion self,” he gave rise to the passions of his unconscious where majesty, strength, courage, both solar and lunar, are found. His art now features wings of fire as he seeks the eternal and indestructible revelation of his being, a light energy that theoretical physicists describe as both light particles and waves. There is always the cultural component that influences an artist. “As a child, I was quite fascinated by the form of Lion. The Lion for me is a metaphor having no connection with its literal representation. It instilled in me an awareness of creativity, which I have experienced through the varied manifestations of this favorite icon of Punjab. In fact, the land where I was born is known for its valor and strength. People from Punjab are referred to as Sher-e-Punjab (“The Lion of Punjab”). Apparently, “this instinct naturally comes to me,” says Prem. The journey of the artist is a difficult one for an artist to describe, because the artist is often at one with his work and play. He is constantly footed in that journey. To paraphrase Joseph Campbell, renown mythology scholar, the artist “hardly knows which is which—his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his 2

An informal interview by an artist of an artist | Armida Nagy Stickney with Prem Singh


August 24, 2008

[PREM SINGH / CONTEMPORARY ARTIST / NEW DELHI, INDIA]

religion simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing.” One can say, Prem has been following his bliss throughout 4o years. “While the artist’s being is into the process of creativity,” Prem says, “the moments come when these two states of mind (i.e., earth & spirit) sublimate into one another like the meeting of the fragrances, giving rise to a feeling of entering into the realm of harmonious wholeness. I am an earthy painter endowed with the wings of imagination, flying every moment while remaining rooted to the soil. Spirituality for me is not exclusive but inclusive.” Consequently, Prem becomes the bridge between Earth & Spirit. As a sage, into the 21st Century, he survives to reveal the glimpse of the quiet zone with his palette. It is from this center that he explores and sustains the vision of his eternal life force. When he was just out of the Art College, he sketched sometimes on paper or directly onto the canvas. He then realised that the method was too conventional and limiting. He remarks, “I set out to explore a method of painting in consonance with the voice within me and more challenging than the prevalent conventional mode.” He now takes one color, mixes it with the medium, and fills up the canvas to counter its scary whiteness. In the process of filling up the canvas without any pre-conceived notions, he realizes that the freely-applied brush strokes contain a kind of 'unconscious' rhythm. He muses, “I contemplate over it, and then I line alongside the brushstrokes with charcoal when the colour is wet. The wetness of paint allows the charcoal to fix itself. He adds, “Later I work on the rhythm of the brush strokes to discover the mood hidden in the painting on the depth and intensity of my experience(s) that I have had in the past. In my creative process I allow the painting to grow out of the canvas rather than forcing upon it.” “Nature is my inspiration, and pure color is my medium,” says Prem. For the most part, he uses a palette of standard colors with a foray of other colors, for example, siennas or umbers, as dictated. He says, “I do not mix colors. I explore only to discover an amazing range of tonal variations hidden in each color.” He reiterates, “Of course, the basic colour palette remains more or less the same but the use of colors varies from painting to painting depending upon the nature of the mood and its myriad manifestations. The transitory states of Sky, Earth, Water, Sun, and Moon with its myriad of color manifest to inspire my palette.” Singh notes that the evolution of a creative process takes time. “Once you get acquainted with the language of painting things start 'happening' naturally on your canvas. Colour is my light and passion. I sing my visual poetry as a bird sings with all the native flavour and fragrance. “In such moments of creativity, my whole being is transformed into a plant that grows every minute by remaining rooted to the soil. This feel of eternity and silent activity gives wings to my imagination. And that inspires me to tune the rhythmic visual voice and its subtle nuances in consonance with my heartbeat,” he reveals.

3

An informal interview by an artist of an artist | Armida Nagy Stickney with Prem Singh


August 24, 2008

[PREM SINGH / CONTEMPORARY ARTIST / NEW DELHI, INDIA]

Technique is merely a vehicle of expression. It is never static but keeps him evolving with the emerging states & surging spirits of the mind while realizing the visual essence of his inner voice. Prem says, “At times an artist resolves certain things; and at other times, the painting itself suggests how to resolve particular areas. Technique, as they say, is a mean to achieve an end.” “My paintings reflect on the playful and prayerful moments that I experience through my dialogue with the manifest and the unmanifest in nature. For me, painting is a dialogue with the Unknown. And then a moment comes when the dialogue reaches its zenith, my painting and I become one. In such moments of Union the artist in me feels a sense of completeness,” Prem summarizes. Visiting the titles of his works is an invitation through the window of his creative mind: An Eerie Splendour, Colour Musicals, Discovering Inner Purities, Golden Planet, Melodious Swings, Portrait of Inner Light, Swirls of Sound, and Splendour of the Divine. When asked about the titles of his works, Prem says, “Title for me is like a clue, not an explanation. Clue here is only meant to enter into my painting. Thus allowing a certain degree of freedom to use one’s imagination to discover and experience or inhale the fragrance of the essence of the experience expressed.” The lion speaks once more when asked what is his biggest doubt about his work? “I have no such inhibitions, fears or doubts in my approach to painting. My art is my voice. Painting for me is like an organic growth and my effort is to allow it to grow as naturally as possible with a tender human touch of mine.” Not only is his art strong, it is tender. It is what peaceful ought to be. There is no over-the-top persona in Prem. What you see is what you get. In his gut, he knows this. “A painting is an expression imbued with the spirit and sensibility of the time and place in which the artist creates, says Prem. He adds, “An artist may not be there forever on this planet yes the spirit and sensibility in his art remains the potent visual voice of his life and time.” Prem may begin with a dialogue which is dual in nature. When he paints he is the artist, in creative mode; but then, too, he also acts as a perceptive viewer. The duality melts into a syzygy of harmony, essence, and clarity to produce a painting that enters into a bigger universe to undergo the test of the times. For Prem, art has become more of a contemplative activity. The ego must die. He formulates, “There is no place for vanity or self-glorification.” Prem’s art is an act of being. It’s as if, in the state of Shakti, he sees all space as if already absorbed in his own head in the brilliance. It is a visual language to be seen and shared. For Prem, it is the experience that matters; and it is the resultant struggle to get to the core of it to express it tangibly. Is it possible, that on this journey, when Prem decides the intangible or the unmanifest is not to be captured on canvas, will he make the ultimate decision, paint it no more? In explaining a recent ecstatic, visual experience, Prem shared the following: This took place in Switzerland and visited lot of places. My encounters with nature there were most ecstatic. Embraced by nature, I felt myself meeting the UNKNOWN manifesting the Unmanifest to me. It was quite an exhilarating experience, which I think is beyond words. 4

An informal interview by an artist of an artist | Armida Nagy Stickney with Prem Singh


August 24, 2008

[PREM SINGH / CONTEMPORARY ARTIST / NEW DELHI, INDIA]

The chorus I heard will ever remain most cherished. It was like the opening of a new window within a window, the vastness of which is to be seen and believed. To return to my studio with such energy and power was indeed a revelation for me.

If one is to evolve into being, one opens himself or herself to cathartic experiences, synthesizing and expelling the wanted and unwanted, as a measure of survival. Prem had emerged from such a recent catharsis. The State to which I belong had a decade of turmoil. Many innocent lives were lost in the frenzy. The cries of my beloved State found expression in my art as well. Later when the turmoil subsided a new thinking dawned upon me. And the veil of grief unfolded and what I saw in this a vast expanse reverberating the life of a different kind – a life beyond life – where strong emotions, fears, tension or unhappy memories to which I had been exposed to gave way to an entirely new rhythmic, visual voice humming in space and earth. This became the point of departure for me from the figurative to abstraction. Henceforth, my paintings reflect on such lyrical, playful, and prayerful moments.

Is Prem conveying a message to people who view his art? “No message please,” says Prem. “Art is all about sensitization and refinement.” As is art, Prem is like a bird who does not wait for the audience to sing the joy in his soul. Prem is an artist rooted to his culture and land. The vigor and vitality of its native beauty add joy to his being. In such moments he feels himself energized to the wholeness of the experience. He holds steadfast that art is expression, and expression originates from the experience. He fights a great battle with all his creative, conceptual convictions while transforming the experience into art. It demands an involvement of the artist’s total being to realize the truth of the quest. He says, “Art begins from the formless to the form.” He may want to add, and back to the formless—waking, sleeping, dreaming, knowing he is seeing and being light. After all, that is what you may experience when you see Prem Singh’s art. Truly, Prem Singh’s art creates a space ; and he lives his life, the same. At first glance and last glance, Prem Singh is an artist following his bliss with perfect clarity of vision, indisputable skill, and eloquence of execution. His works are in private collections in India and abroad. He currently resides in the Solihull, West Midlands, United Kingdom, during the summer and winters in New Delhi, India, with studios in both places.

Author: Armida Nagy Stickney with Prem Singh 5

An informal interview by an artist of an artist | Armida Nagy Stickney with Prem Singh


August 24, 2008

6

[PREM SINGH / CONTEMPORARY ARTIST / NEW DELHI, INDIA]

An informal interview by an artist of an artist | Armida Nagy Stickney with Prem Singh

Interview with Artist Prem Singh  

An interview by Armida Nagy Stickney

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you