Beginning of the Festival
titled and inscribed '"BEGINNING OF THE FESTIVAL" / ARPITA SINGH' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
45 x 45 in. (114.3 x 114.3 cm.)
Painted in 1972-74
Formerly from the collection of the artist, Jeram Patel
A. Jhaveri, A Guide to 101 Modern & Contemporary Indian Artists, Mumbai, 2005, p. 84 (illustrated)

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Nishad Avari
Nishad Avari

Lot Essay

Arpita Singh’s compositions combine personal and mythical narratives which she describes as ‘a memory of something once known and since forgotten, like childhood or paradise’.

Writing about her work from the early 1970s, Richard Bartholomew noted that “Arpita Singh’s paintings convey the feeling of disconcerting familiarity and of quiet which is the hallmark of sensitive surrealism. In fact, the paraphernalia of her work – the imagery – is in ‘suspense’, strung and sprung, as it were, to change pace and sensation at the slightest emotive identification and response from the spectator. All this is reinforced with an impressive continuity and consistency of theme and imagery.” (R. Bartholomew, Arpita Singh, exhibition catalogue, Mumbai, 1976)

During the early 1970s, still a formative period in Singh’s oeuvre, the artist was influenced by a wide range of visual stimuli or ‘paraphernalia’ including local bazaars, Indian folk art and Western Pop Art. In these enchanted, enigmatic worlds Singh creates, “Fruits, flowers, boats, and figures all achieve an equal significance in animated manifestations. They dissolve into one another, life metamorphosing into life, creating a magical symbiosis.” (Y. Dalmia, Expressions and Evocations: Contemporary Women Artists of India, Mumbai, 1996, pg. 70)

This painting from 1972-74 offers the viewer a whimsical, seemingly staged scene, rendered in a vivid palette dominated by green and purple. With a playful use of discrepancies of scale and perspective, and various elements, ranging from nautical equipment and potted plants to boats and bottles, the artist invites the viewer to muse on what is seen and to imagine what remains unseen. The convergence of interior and exterior, private and public in this fantastical tableau, also foreshadows Singh’s later work in which she explores the different facets of women’s lives.

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