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When splatter is not what it appears to be, and meticulous pointillism is just a hazy cloud, one is piqued by the artist’s creative process. Aditi Singh’s remarkable sleight of hand is evident from her series of graphite and ink drawings at the Thomas Erben Gallery, New York. Titled, ‘All that is left behind’, the Mumbai based artist’s profusion of atmospheric and natural surfaces result from her ability to erase, manipulate, and drop ink on different densities of paper.
Singh’s unique combination of calligraphy ink with graphite and charcoal makes for work that is enchantingly opaque. Abstract forms create impressions of undulating liquid surfaces, decrepit facades, foggy skies, and aerial coagulation from pollution. On closer inspection, Singh’s trademark technique to drop and control the diffusion of ink on paper reveals itself. Her mastery over the velocity of the drop and the extent of its splatter makes the significance of chance secondary in her work. The appearance of happenstance and the random application of ink on paper becomes all but an illusion.
In Untitled (2014-15), painstakingly rendered graphite markings on the front of the paper, combined with ink dripped on the reverse side, produce the effect of large dewdrops on a windshield, and slithering bacteria magnified under a microscope. Shades of blue and pink illuminate hazy globules that seem to slide randomly on the surface. The faintly visible graphite scores merge with the obscurely scattered ink to give the work a gritty surface. Like free flowing watercolour on paper, shades of slate grey, mist green, and torris blue converge and disperse. Singh’s dexterous manipulation and blending of colours creates a sense of translucency and depth in the work.
The fibrous content and materiality of the paper is an important determinant in Singh’s art. Its permeability enables the most unexpected saturation and densities of color. For example in Untitled (2015), a red blotch resembling a rose appears at one corner of the paper. Thick, concentrated, and wooly, the central portion laced with shades of merlot, garnet, and mahogany, seems to pop out from the more diffused apple red surrounding petals. Devised on Washi paper, which is Japanese paper made from fibrous materials, Singh’s ability to shape her forms, create perspective, and prevent excessive bleeding of the ink, attests to her studied choice of materials to attain a remarkable sense of beauty and poise.
A large smoggy work (36 x 146 inches) beckons from the corner of the gallery. Filled with fluffy grey clouds flecked with specks of grime and cinder, it brings the shifting horizon to mind. Made from graphite on parchment paper, hundreds of precise dots, resembling Georges Seurat’s pointillism, are smudged and erased. This skillful rubbing that creates dark and light clouds of varying density has a meditative effect. Despite its uneven grubby surface, the breadth of the horizon, and the depth of the sky come through. Singh’s beguiling and varied technique can also be seen in a surprisingly sharped-edged Rorschach-like work. Here, for the first time, one sees the intimations of splatter. Spiky corners protrude from an eggplant coloured patch. Comprised of ink and charcoal on Arches paper, this strange looking blotch might well be a psychologist’s delight.
If there is anything frustrating about these works it is that they are all untitled. Nothing could be more ironic when referring to works that are so distinctive in their texture, mood, and feel.
Aditi Singh, Untitled, 2015. Ink on Washi paper, 9.75 x 12.75 inches. Courtesy the artist and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York.
Aditi Singh, Untitled, 2014-15. Graphite and ink on Arches paper, 35 x 45 inches. Courtesy the artist and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York.
Aditi Singh, Untitled, 2013-15. Graphite on parchment paper (diptych), 36 x 146 inches. Courtesy the artist and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York.
Aditi Singh, Untitled, 2013. Detail. Ink and charcoal on Arches paper, 60 x 86 inches. Courtesy the artist and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York.