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Arpita Singh (B. 1937)
Arpita Singh (B. 1937)

The Eternal Repose

Details
Arpita Singh (B. 1937)
The Eternal Repose
signed 'ARPITA SINGH' (lower left); signed, titled, inscribed and dated 'ARPITA SINGH THE ETERNAL REPOSE OIL ON CANVAS 60" X 60" 1997' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
59½ x 66in. (151.1 x 167.7cm.)
Painted in 1997

Lot Essay

Arpita Singh's free-floating compositions address challenging social and political subject matter, while maintaining an aura of gentle grace and quiet luminosity. Singh spent four years working in the Calcutta and Delhi Weavers service center and her paintings draw partly on the stylistic devices of Kantha embroidery. Consuming the entire canvas, sacrificing baseline and perspective for figural relationships and pattern, these works very much quote the textile tradition of which Arpita Singh was a part. Typically depictioning women situated amongst icons signifying both violence and domesticity, Singh reduces her figures in this piece to the level of objects equating them through her use of scale, her attention to detail and her compositional placement with the litany of ordinary items in the work. This is very apparent in The Eternal Repose, which depicts a multi-armed woman reaching out towards a series of doll-like figures surrounding her. The choice of a multi-armed central figure has numerous connotations suggesting both the iconography of Hindu deities found in temple sculpture and popular Hindu imagery as well as addressing the simple conundrum of the modern woman juggling, home, work, children and her relationships. The reclining pose also resonates with Hindu mythology and the stories of Vishnu, in repose sheltered by cobras. Vishnu, as preserver of the Universe is here replaced by the everywoman who in multiple roles sustains the frenetic activity within the domestic domain -- a universe in and of itself. Often incorporating familiar, everyday images into her work, Singh frequently numbers them, as one would a shopping list, in a clever emphasis of their banality. "I like to paint, draw the most familiar, what I see everyday, know it, live it, otherwise I cannot draw. This thing of people sitting, perhaps my life is like that... perhaps painting is a way of understanding these things, like when you are a child and are practicing handwriting, that is your way of understanding the alphabets and letters..." (In conversation with N. Tuli, The Flamed Mosaic - Indian Contemporary Painting, Ahmedabad, 1997, p. 387). In recording these objects Singh develops a deeper understanding of their character; however through her intelligent and witty use of juxtaposition she often simultaneously reveals truths about the character of modern culture itself.

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