Make-believe water-lilies in lush pink, dark grey toy cars, paper boats, birds/planes in the sky and plump oranges, share space with skeletal remains, gun-toting soldiers and drowning men brandishing swords. The beautiful and the bizarre, the divine and the demonic co-exist on the canvas. In the fifty years of her career as an artist, Arpita Singh's language has acquired a distinctive edge. As she has evolved as an artist, Arpita has overcome the challenges of the picture space and dexterously, yet playfully, fused reality and fantasy creating a unique idiom that is at once child-like, naive, and yet highly sophisticated in its basic idea, emotional quotient and potent structure.
Certain undercurrents seen in Arpita's paintings over the decades have gathered force from the year 2000 onwards. Her sensibilities, which shaped her images, have been tinged with her childhood memories of loss, dislocation and journeys. Buried deep in her subconscious is the experience of a fractured reality of her early childhood. Meanwhile the poignancy of her youth slipping away has triggered another rising tide of melancholy. And to be able to negotiate the acute sense of loss
that is layered within her being, as an artist, she has begun mythologizing the reality that she experienced - at first a personal mythology and then she has appropriated the myths of the community. It is not surprising therefore that death is a recurrent motif in her paintings, an observation also made by cultural studies commentator Geeta Kapur.
Her works have been registering other changes also. The idea of a iourney which one saw in many of her earlier paintings, takes on a different dimension in the works that she does in the new millennium. Roads and road maps now become familiar metaphors. She began with mapping neighborhoods, and then charted cities, moving on to representing a meta reality where past, present and future, reality and fantasy, the conscious and the liminal subconscious ambiguously shared the same spatial reality. And at one point, she took off and began charting the skies. Also at this time, Arpita's ideas of heredity and continuity of genetic patterns began gathering strength. Just as she became fascinated by outer space, she was also attracted by what lay below the surface, the archaeology of material cultures.
Text by Ella Datta