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ARPITA SINGH (B. 1937)
Untitled
signed and dated 'ARPITA SINGH 95' (lower right); further signed and dated 'ARPITA SINGH / 1995' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
48 x 48 in. (121.9 x 121.9 cm.)
Painted in 1995

Lot Essay

Arpita Singh's compositions deploy an allegorical style that combines personal and mythical narratives which she describes as "a memory of something once known and since forgotten, like childhood or paradise." Singh spent four years working in the Weavers' Service Centres in Calcutta and Delhi, and her paintings partly draw on the stylistic devices of the traditional Kantha embroidery she became familiar with there. Often enveloping the entire canvas with ornamental borders and sacrificing perspective for figural relationships and patterns, Singh's paintings repeatedly quote this textile tradition.

Singh typically depicts women in moments of duress, surrounded by objects that are mundane or otherwordly. Through such juxtapositioning she invests common place items, such as planes and automobiles (both being recurring motifs in her works) with layers of meaning. In this painting, these elements seem to be populating the dreams of Singh's protagonist, an unclad middle-aged woman who is shown seated on the lower right of the painting. The plane represents the notion of passage both physical and temporal. The violence that the departures of loved ones and the aging process wreak, particularly on women, has historically been among Singh's concerns. Motifs like planes embody these "comings and goings, the inevitability and implicit danger of separation and reunion, and the inescapability of death. She makes the past and the faraway co-present, in the anticipation of separation, by travel or death." (S. Bean, 'Now, Then, Beyond, Time in India's Contemporary Art', Contemporary Indian Art, Other Realities, Mumbai, 2002, p. 54)
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