Artist Sushila Singh in her artwork series ‘Udaan, Beyond Bounds’ gives life to temples and treats them as though they are living and breathing among us.
Sushila Singh, known among her peers for her ink drawings, looks content welcoming spectators to enjoy her art series ‘Udaan, Beyond Bounds’ at Kathmandu Art Gallery, inside the premises of Le Sherpa, in Lazimpat. The art gallery doesn’t spread out into a large open space, but for Singh’s artworks, the small space fittingly highlights the charm of her works.
Singh started creating ink line artworks more than a decade ago, and even after all these years, her obsession with lines, it seems, hasn’t dwindled. At Kathmandu Art Gallery, her artistic style with its distinct visuals immediately attracts onlookers, with lines maturing into pagoda-shaped temples. Her works are dominated by two bold colours: black and orange. This choice of colours makes her strokes even more suggestive of the temples and old buildings around Kathmandu Valley. They also hint to our own dream-like nostalgia, of staring up at the huge temples, their ‘gajur’, the golden pinnacle shining against the backdrop of the clear blue sky, to unfurl into a reverie as a child.
Thirty-six-year-old Singh, a mother of two, finds time to work on her art when her children are at school or when they are asleep. “When I am working on my artworks, I take my time, there is no rush to get things done. And part of the reason is because I enjoy being a mother, but I am also the happiest when I am sketching,” she says.
Singh’s delight translates into her works: her imagination is unrestrained and therefore endearing. In her art, it seems tangible entities, such as the temples and the icons themselves, are trying to reach beyond their limits. Singh gives life to temples and treats them as though they are living, breathing among us. And in that personification, it seems the pagoda-style monuments are climbing their own path. If you look closer, you will also notice human faces draped in the temples she draws.
The artworks are showcased via two mediums: ceramic and paper. And at a glance, the artwork all looks the same. But the recurring patterns tell of Singh’s indelible penchant for what she always sees when she travels around Kathmandu. Perhaps, in her mind, Singh still protects the milieu of the old Kathmandu, where these monuments breathe freely. The world she presents in her art feel peaceful. The iconic birds that we usually see in temples live unrestrained in her works—they fly, and reach out of their bounds.
The repetition of the pattern across her series, which are a total of 63 pieces, however, seems to chip away the essence of her theme: Udaan (flight), Beyond Bounds. The various ceramic paintings put together on the wall don’t collate any narrative, but individually the artworks are beautiful. Ironically though, this fails the theme of the series that expresses breaking the tangible restraints. In frames and in different forms, she cages her own hopeful imagination.
Singh’s ceramic collection that mainly constitutes the exhibition is a result of her one-year endeavour. “I started learning ceramic art three years ago, and in the process, I realised that I enjoyed it a lot,” she says. “When I showed my works to Sangita Thapa, director of Siddhartha Art Gallery, she said I should display my work at the gallery, to which I happily agreed.”
Ever since Singh started line drawing, she has always found herself engraving lines to make monuments that resemble the architecture of the temples of her hometown, Patan.+ She claims she has bundles of canvases at her home that prove her fascination of this style.
“For some reason, I always find myself working on lines to create something. It could be because they are everywhere, in the architecture we see, in the rooms we live inside,” she says. In her artwork, these lines also seem to become a growing stairway to the top. But, if you take the time to spend some time mulling and musing over her work, a grim feeling might wrap you. The realisation of how there is no reference to the bounds the elements have crossed is intimidating.
Perhaps, this is something for Singh to explore in her next project. But as people enter the gallery to look at her works, Singh looks gratified. She slowly moves behind the art space to make way for her visitors and to observe them revelling in her works. Her smile resembles that of a joyful child when given their favourite toy.
‘Udaan, Beyond Bounds’ will be on display until November 22 at Kathmandu Art Gallery, Le Sherpa, Lazimpat.
This article was published in The Kathmandu Post on November 15, 2019