Artist Abhishek Singh Discusses Drawing as a Language, Layering Stories through Art
Asia Society at Home
HOUSTON, December 11, 2020 — Artist Abhishek Singh joined Asia Society Texas for an artist talk and demonstration in celebration of the final weekend of our traveling exhibition Transcendent Deities of India: The Everyday Occurrence of the Divine at the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University in Atlanta.
Layers of connection
Singh began the discussion by recounting a story of Ganesha and Parvati, in celebration of the first day of the Hindu festival of Navaratri. As he spoke, he leafed through a series of sketches he had created while volunteering at an elephant sanctuary, weaving insights into his process throughout the story, as he has woven mythology and nature intuitively into his work. The process of spending more time with the elephants and caring for their basic needs helped Singh to understand more about his own relationship to nature and his art. Rather than seeing these encounters as research, the artist felt his journey was instead a pursuit of curiosity and simple connection.
The artist commented that taking the time to sit quietly and observe isn’t something he sees in many people’s daily lives, particularly when we are young and moving quickly from one thing to another. Our experience of stillness is limited. So Singh has intentionally brought into his practice this stillness and observation, the desire to translate a deep experience of empathy, analysis, and observation into poetry and art. Drawing becomes a part of this process and is a language that the artist can use to interpret the overlapping realities he experiences.
The language of drawing
Singh said he sees drawing can be used as a language that brings you closer to, and creates a relationship with, silence. As you grow quiet through the practice of drawing, your mind, body, and spirit can align. The rhythm of pen or pencil on the page, which can be fast or slow, stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, associated with a calming effect on the body and mind.
The artist finds that drawing emanates from him naturally, an energy that is expressed through the body — in Singh’s case, the energy is transmitted through his hand. He postulates that the energy starts from the head and, charting a course like a river, it flows through the fingers. Taking a quantum perspective, he suggests that the cells carry information through the body in a way similar to how stories and knowledge are passed through the generations. We may never understand completely how this process works, but according to the artist, the point isn’t to understand; it’s to witness and participate in the process.
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Variations on artistic practice
In looking deeper into his multidisciplinary process, Singh indicated that although he began his practice with drawing, his writing became a part of his work later. As he explored ancient histories and epic narratives, he was drawn into the layers of the stories — political, psychological, scientific, and fantastical. In his artistic expression, the imagery and words are tied together. He would find himself sitting down to write, but also doodling around the edges of the words. And while there may at some point be a stage in his process at which he moves from the paper to the digital space to write longer pieces, he doesn’t see the words as separate from the sketches — it’s both together, always. Singh never has viewed art in rigid categories.
While you can learn a lot about art history from books, you can also learn it from everything around you — nature, stories, family, and folk traditions. Singh hopes to encourage others to get more artistic inspiration from the everyday. In the way that many create music without the expectation of it becoming a career, he suggests people can do the same with drawing. Singh strongly believes in the creation of art as an activity for oneself, to build a personal space and practice that doesn’t have to be all-encompassing or career-oriented. If what you create moves out into the world and other people are willing to pay for it, that can be a fortunate place to be — but that’s not the goal per se. The point is the experience of life, creation, and opening yourself to more than the surface level of what you see.
To conclude the program, the artist demonstrated his creative process by drawing a work in ink that connected back to his opening story of Parvati and Ganesha.
Business and Policy programs are endowed by Huffington Foundation. We give special thanks to Bank of America, Muffet Blake, Anne and Albert Chao, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Nancy Pollok Guinee, and United Airlines, Presenting Sponsors of Business and Policy programs; Nancy C. Allen, Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen, and Leslie and Brad Bucher, Presenting Sponsors of Exhibitions; Dr. Ellen R. Gritz and Milton D. Rosenau, Presenting Sponsors of Performing Arts and Culture; Wells Fargo, Presenting Sponsor of Education & Outreach; and Mitsubishi Corporation (Americas), Presenting Sponsor of the Japan Series. General support of programs and exhibitions is provided by The Brown Foundation, Inc., The Hearst Foundation, Inc., Houston Endowment, Inc., the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance, McKinsey & Company, Inc., National Endowment for the Arts, Texas Commission on the Arts, Vinson & Elkins LLP, and Mary Lawrence Porter, as well as Friends of Asia Society.
About Asia Society at Home
We are dedicated to continuing our mission of building cross-cultural understanding and uplifting human connectivity. Using digital tools, we bring you content for all ages and conversations that matter, in order to spark curiosity about Asia and to foster empathy.
About Asia Society Texas Center
With 13 locations throughout the world, Asia Society is the leading educational organization promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among the peoples, leaders, and institutions of Asia and West. Asia Society Texas Center executes the global mission with a local focus, enriching and engaging the vast diversity of Houston through innovative, relevant programs in arts and culture, business and policy, education, and community outreach.
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