Internal and external journeys take myriad forms and find new meanings in the creative journeys of Aparneet Mann and Gurpreet Singh, recipients of this year’s Sohan Qadri and Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi Fellowships. The fellowships, of Rs 2, 00,000 each, are aimed at providing talented artists from Punjab a platform to continue their research to develop new ideas in their respective disciplines and also to promote and recognise their talent. Mann and Singh, who were selected on the basis of their original artworks and intensive interviews by internationally renowned artists such as Sudarshan Shetty and Bose Krishnamachari, on their visual vocabulary and their artistic journeys:
A new landscape
EMOTIONS are in motion in Chandigarh-based Aparneet Mann’s work, with her primary discipline being multimedia. Her recent body of work explores video, drawings and sound, as she works with acrylics, charcoal and also explores sculpture and photography based work. A BFA from Kala Bhavana, Visva-Bharati, Shantiniketan and an MFA from Government College of Art, Chandigarh, for Mann, the scholarship is a personal reaffirmation to explore, experiment and be connected with art, against all odds. The central theme of Mann’s work is a woman, as she keeps returning to it. “I present my own personal narrative, which provides a catharsis. The forms and mediums could be varied — installations, drawings, sculptures and paintings. Mann has used charcoal and acrylic on canvas, fiberglass and mixed-media and also experimented with other mediums like multimedia, woodcuts, silk screen, oils, batik and tempera. She has also combined photos and paintings to present the personal. The artist has been lately dabbling in the field of videos, where her drawings acquire movement and sound, which presents a fascinating dimension. “At this junction, I am open to exploring many materials and mediums necessary for a dialogue through art. Essential to my art practice is an all-pervasive landscape, which transforms from time to time, and is essential to my art making. The ever-changing landscapes are threaded together with my experiences and confessions, my internal and external landscape and the landscape itself,” she says.
The internal landscape is a depiction of her own sentiments, feelings, emotions, anxieties and issues that affect her. The works are introspective, message is more direct and in execution, they are stark with a lot of use of white and black, mainly sketches and charcoal and graphite on canvas. It is then that a transition starts to take place and an external landscape emerges. The concerns are similar as before, but the paintings acquire layers. There is a shift from black and white to greys, and the message becomes more interpretive. The use of animals becomes symbolic. This landscape is made up of layers of various components such as fossils, corals, diatoms, scientific diagrams and other organic and metamorphic forms. Nature starts to transform into a memory. “Soon, this landscape attains its own form and character. In the artwork done with old photographs, the narratives get extended into this contemporary landscape. I understand that the space where the artworks and the audience meet is crucial and it is the dialogue between all these spaces that shape the artist and their processes,” says Mann.
Stories of the soil
IT’S in his home in Bhattian, a village near Khanna that Gurpreet Singh first discovered art — in the forms that the soot from the smoke of the chulha created, the designs and textures on the mud walls, the simple artwork his mother did to beautify these walls. “In my eyes, these were all art pieces, expressing feelings, as I was inspired to sketch and draw,” says Singh, whose artistic practice revolves around his experiences of the rural life in Punjab. He works mostly with charcoal, pencil and ink on paper and is a Master’s in Fine Arts from the Government College of Art, Chandigarh.
It is the soil that Singh returns to, for his new work, which portrays special moments from his childhood in the village, as he mixes glue with soil to create forms. Pigeons and dogs, an integral part of his village life, appear in his work, with the demonic expression of the dogs depicting his fear of the animal as a child, one that continues to haunt him. In another work, he creates a portrait using his left hand, trying to understand how a two-year-old would create one.
“I have worked with children extensively and am fascinated with their natural movements and expressions and that’s why I don’t create realistic works. I approach each work with new eyes,” he adds.
Singh first creates all his work in a sketch book and later translates it on canvas and paper, and admits that what he does in the diary cannot be replicated. “In fact, the judges were absolutely impressed with my artist sketch book, which contains years of my work,” he says. Singh doesn’t restrict himself to one medium, as he points to a self-portrait done using a sack, soil and salt water. “I do not depend on a material, for I believe the concept is more important and apart from soil, I am also using natural pigments and charcoal,” he says.