It was a walk down memory lane for painter Prem Singh, as he presented a slide show of his works through many decades, titled, ‘A journey through lyrical voices’, organised by the Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi. The evening was especial for the artist, and former principal of the Government College of Art, Chandigarh, as he connected with his former students and contemporaries and shared the many elements that have influenced his art and also the transformations that have given a new meaning to his work and life. “Passion, commitment, confidence, continuity are the essentials of my life. Painting for me is a silent, continuous activity and when the silences become audible and I hear the deep voices I pick up the brush and paint,” smiles Singh, who grew up in Patiala.
Living in an extended family and a close-knit community, being an integral part of the ‘common heritage’ of festivals, fairs, and finding in them art, music, dance, drama began a passion of expressing oneself through myriad colours. Drawing images, symbols, floral, wall motifs, the image of a lion fascinated Singh constantly and gave him the impetus to create his own lion, and he decided to give his passion a direction, by joining the Government College of Art.
Singh shared the variety of works he did at the college, with two works done in 1966, figurative in spirit with an accent on colour acquired for the permanent collection of Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh. “It was a major achievement and until 1975, I was exploring through my work the mood and meanings of life and nature in a simple way,” Singh shared the landscapes he did during this time, and also many works on the lake, tree of Chandigarh, and the mud houses of Khuda Ali Sher.
Singh then moved to a period, where he painted veiled women to express many emotions and feelings, without faces and expressions, with the images exuding grace, femininity and a flow. “The whiteness of the canvas stimulates, excites, challenges and scares you. When I fill it with colour I find a rhythm, and web of the brush creates strokes, in which I find seasons, colours,” Singh, showcases some works created of the beauties of nature and the varied changes in colours and textures.
Singh then moved to a painful period of his art, the 1984 riots in India, and his close association with those affected by the riots and their heart-rending stories. “I expressed all the anguish and agony of the victims suffered in riots through the veiled woman in a series of ink drawings. Woman, because she gives birth to life and only she can feel the intensity of its loss,” the drawings were under the title ‘ Images from the scarred city ‘. The next few years, Singh’s work chronicle the post-riot situation and the changing environment in Punjab.