Interviews | April 5, 2023 |

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Image courtesy of Neena Singh

Interview: Neena Singh
Luca Curci talks with Neena Singh, honourable mention of ITSLIQUID International Contest – 13th Edition.

Neena Singh is a self-taught contemporary artist based in India. Neena did her Masters, M.Phil and Ph.D in Sociology from JNU, New Delhi. She grew up in small towns in North India. Growing up in a conventional and patriarchal set-up in small towns made her aware of the then-existing pressures and limitations on a female child. Getting basic education was a struggle. While studying in a government school, books in the library became her windows to the world. The act of painting was not a choice for her, it was an absolute necessity. She has been creating art for more than two decades and has several critically acclaimed solo exhibitions to her credit.

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Image courtesy of Neena Singh

Luca Curci – What is art for you?
Neena Singh
– Art is an act of magic which enables me to create a world which is an antithesis to the world around me, grappling with sorrows, destruction, hatred, wars etc. To resist the sorrows of human experience we need to create another world wherein we can reconstruct ourselves, can recover our vision. ART, for me, is salvation. While growing up I always struggled to make sense of my experiences, occurrences and events happening around me and to understand my place in the universe. Expressing myself was a compelling necessity and creating art gave me a voice. In addition to becoming a tool to preserve the authenticity of my lived experience art also helped me to see beyond my mundane reality. Art opened to me dimensions of the spirit and the self which normally lie smothered under the weight of daily existence. The process and act of painting enabled me to be and to become. For me, art is not a luxury, not to be associated with certain classes or privileges. In the words of Jeanette Winterson Art is an active force in the world, present to those who want it, affecting even those who don’t. Art as creativity is vitally necessary for our human life because it shows us the capacity to transmute, transform and transcendence the experiences which drag us down.

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Image courtesy of Neena Singh

LC – How did you get to your current artistic practice?
– Expressing my experiences, impressions, emotions and feelings has always been a compelling inner necessity for me. Being a student of literature, as a youngster, in my 20s/30s I felt a natural closeness and affinity with written words. I used to write poetry to express what I was thinking, and experiencing. My existence was deeply entrenched in words; later in life after certain events and incidences, I realised that what I was experiencing and struggling to express was beyond the realm of words. I was tired, exhausted and lost. I did not want to give up and was determined to transmute the suffering. It was during such a phase that painting came to me naturally and organically. What surprised me was that it came with an overwhelming force. As I am a self-taught artist it has taken me a very long to evolve and develop a unique artistic language of my own. As a research scholar, while collecting data for my PhD thesis my approach was towards abstraction from secondary sources. Similarly, that inclination towards abstraction is distilled in my artistic style also.

LC – Where do you find your inspiration?
– I find my inspiration from diverse sources; mostly I feel inspired to paint when I am reading. However, Nature is a huge inspiration. I love colours, forms, and textures of nature to express my experiences and state of being.

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Image courtesy of Neena Singh

LC – How much has the city/country in which you grew up/born affected your work as an artist?
– My art is more inward-looking. Excavating my inner experiences. Still the city, and country definitely affect my art. I have lived a very long in Bombay city. My impressions, experiences of the city, and the ways in which Bombay impacted my aesthetics and sensibility were expressed in a series ‘Living on the edge’. But the impact is not very direct … I experience my surroundings and they stay within me and come out in myriad ways.

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Image courtesy of Neena Singh

LC – Among the several techniques you use, which one do you prefer to practice and which of them is most compelling for you?
– I do not draw and paint. I directly use paint on canvas or paper. I start with marks-making. I usually work with acrylic medium and as I am a little restless while painting, acrylics as a medium is in sync with my artistic temperament. I build up my artwork layer by layer. As my artistic process is largely intuitive, gradually, the form begins to take shape and thereafter, I intentionally build up the relation between shapes, colours and composition. Painting for me is not so much about the techniques, it is more about finding a visual language to express the things I value, and the life I live. I build up my paintings through a detailed process of addition and subtraction, layer by layer, which gives a kind of history and depth to my works. With more than 2 decades of art practice, I have acquired sufficient control over my craft which allows me to express the idea that I set out to express visually.

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Image courtesy of Neena Singh
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Image courtesy of Neena Singh
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Image courtesy of Neena Singh
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Image courtesy of Neena Singh

Image courtesy of Neena Singh

Image courtesy of Neena Singh

Image courtesy of Neena Singh

Image courtesy of Neena Singh

Image courtesy of Neena Singh

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