Sumakshi Singh weaves her beliefs into her handcrafted art


Sumakshi Singh weaves her beliefs into her handcrafted art

The artist and sculptor finds solitude when she works on installations, paintings, embroideries or illusion-mapping

By Rajashree Balaram  February 25th, 2020

Folded staircase at Kiran Nadar Museum; ‘In The Garden’ featured at Arthouz, Chennai; Threadwork at India art fair 

Till the beginning of the 20th century, sculpting was widely regarded as the preserve of male artists. In recent times, though, sculptures and installations made by women artists have emerged from a dissolution of stereotypes—of both materials and processes. They are challenging the very norms of creation—by burning, splintering, purging, dissolving, shredding and ripping. Perhaps, therein they let bask as many metaphors for the destruction of taboos, suppression, patriarchy, corruption and discrimination. We spoke to Sumakshi Singh, the Delhi-based sculptor who tells us it’s all that, and so much more.

Before Sumakshi Singh goes off the grid, she promises me she will emerge sometime during the day from her basement studio to finish our interview chat over a phone call. Holed up in the subterranean quiet, Singh might just work all night on botanical tapestries for the India Art Fair and on complex projection mapping on lace sculptures for a private commission. In the middle of it all, she will take a break to ponder briefly over folded, life-size, architectural drawings of her grandparents’ home, made out of lace and thread to be displayed at the Kiran Nadar Museum this month.

 

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With all that ferment in her mind, the applause around her recent window installation, ‘Pages from a Dream Journal’, for the Hermès store in Chanakya Mall has receded to a faint echo in Singh’s consciousness. The sublime, deep blue landscape of levitating sheets, raw silk and ethereal forms, underlining the fragility of our dreams, spotlighted her once again as a force to reckon with. 

An artist and educator, Singh’s life is fairly turgid with accomplishments— exhibitions in the USA, China, France, Italy, Serbia and Switzerland, and mentoring residencies and lectures at some of the most prestigious international art universities in the world. While that may seem like a huge circuitry of projects and professional commitments to lug around, Singh is just as talented at finding pristine solitude when she sets to work on installations, paintings, drawings, embroideries or illusion-mapping. “If a work is site-specific, I begin by walking the space… trying to feel its history and its physical architecture, understanding what is trying to happen there visually.” 

 

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Her projects are known for their elaborate scale—sometimes a 70-ft long maze of scrolls, sometimes an endless corridor of animated art history characters, and sometimes room after room with suspended thread work, steeped in childhood memories. Every piece is born in a crucible of internal inquiry. “My art isn’t overtly about a political event,” she says, “but it is political in the way that it subverts the mainstream propaganda or dominant, imposed belief system.” 

Photographs: Instagram (Folded staircase at Kiran Nadar Museum and threadwork at India Art Fair)