Aarohi Singh/ Art By Aarohi/ CollectiviteaAarohi Singh is a Bengaluru, India-based artist and creative powerhouse whose work has gained a devoted following of admirers and art collectors. It’s hard to choose a single reason for the acclaim that her art draws. She is exceedingly talented. She is bold in her creations, whether it’s the choice of subjects, colors, size or complexity. She is versatile, using a variety of materials (oils, watercolors, acrylic paints and pastels) and mediums that range from the flat of the canvas, to the contours of a kettle or chair. Her art is at once pure and accessible- anyone can see the beauty and feel the power of the paintings but that does not in any way make them ordinary. Apart from large canvas artworks and a collection that involves art on everyday objects such as boxes and kettles, she is also currently launching a line of hand-painted furniture and volunteering her art skills to raise awareness on the plight of stray dogs in India. So add prolific and a willingness to experiment to her many talents! Aarohi Singh spoke to us about her introduction to art and the journey so far.

Aarohi Singh/ Art By Aarohi/ Once Upon A Tea Time

Have you always wanted to paint? Was it your first choice as an occupation or was it serendipity? 

AS: I have always been into creativity of some sort. My journey into painting began when I started painting A0 size posters of cartoon characters for my room wall. I think I was about ten years old at the time. It started out  by trying to use squares to enlarge a drawing and then I found I wanted to be able to get flat colors, just like you see in the comics with black outlines. I think my ‘kitsch’ range of work with its black outlines is a remnant of that time. And then a fantastic guide and guru, Mr. Nakul Sinha who was my art teacher for the SUPW (Socially useful, productive work) class in school, made me realize that this is what I was made for. To paint and create. I did painting as a SUPW subject in school from grades 10-12th. And since I was in boarding school at the time, Nakul sir would open the art room for me at all times of the day- holidays or not. He never ‘touched up’ any work of mine though he did so for others. I used to think he did not care. Until he told me at my first exhibition four years later – “I always saw the potential but I wanted you to develop your own voice.”  I took painting as an elective subject in 11 and 12th grade. In my board exams, I topped the country in both painting and history. I have a certificate from CBSE for being a 0.0001% topper. My Mum said you can paint anytime, so do history. Thus started my journey into finding meaning and value and into connections that find their way into my art today. I did my graduation and post graduation in History and got top grades again. I found myself at a fork- History and IAS or something else. I did a short course in Auto CAD for the fun of it and then joined a company as a content writer. From there I went on to do Information architecture and Interaction design. While I was good at my job and did well, my heart was not in it. I continued to paint on the side. And I was lucky that my work sold from home and by word of mouth alone.  After marriage and two kids, I was at a point as a stay at home mum that if I did not do something productive I would have killed myself. I went back to my first love, painting. Full time or as full-time as two young children would allow! That is when the painting on small objects like kettles and boxes started, as a sort of way to give voice to my thoughts without an all-consuming methodology of large format oils or acrylics. But art needs to be shared. No one lives in a vacuum and I wanted to know if what I think, say and feel is also felt by others. A near, sold-out exhibition in 2008 of the ‘Kitsch’ range changed my life. I have been painting ‘full-time’ since then.

Aarohi Singh/ Art By Aarohi/ Once Upon A Tea Time

What fascinates you about painting?  

AS: The tactile feel of the canvas/support and the paint. And yes, the colors too. Colors convey so much more than the obvious. I find the process of trying to control how the paint flows on the support both frustrating and liberating. To me, it is amazing that any artist can position seemingly random lines and splashes on a flat surface and create something that is almost alive. I know what I want to create most times and sometimes magic happens – the feeling I want to express is on the paper without conscious thought. Somehow physically touching the paint lends itself to a kind of ceremony vs.fingers dancing across a screen with a stylus. It would be sterile and lifeless. On the computer screen, the work looks finished even when you know it isn’t. By hand I have the remnants of that work for days.. paint under my finger nails, skin slightly dry from over washing or thinner. I love it. I feel more connected to my art. Everything inspires me. Thoughts, ideas, people, places. To me, what I create is about connections. Connections of ‘Me’ to that ‘something’ or ‘someone’ else. In fact so often I find that I am pushing my own limits to see in how many ways I can express a feeling or thought. And across how many different supports or materials. In a way, it is an effort to nail down a nebulous thought into a more lucid form, one that challenges in terms of  use of material.

Do you have an idea and you draw an outline and then come back to it time and again, each time changing it a little till it looks the way you want it to?

AS: Most times, I have a good idea of what I want to create. But it is usually is only about 75% clear. The rest takes shape as I work. Sometimes I have worked on a canvas for months and not been able to get what I wanted and then something will click and I will paint near nonstop for 24-36 hours and the painting will be done. Some work is about conveying a mood without too much detail as happens with the pen and inks…somehow more fluid. Spontaneous. The large format canvases started in a very detailed, almost graphic format and then slowly I found myself gravitating to an inner desire to just let go. Soon I was painting with my fingers, a rag or my open palm. The brush only came in much later to add some refining points.

 What do you like painting the most?

AS: “Eyes. They are a window into the soul. More often than not, into my soul. Every canvas is more about what I felt at the time, generically, about the subject, than the subject itself. Every man I paint is a reflection of the man I love. Those eyes convey my feelings toward him. I rarely paint women. Somehow I have never really been able to. I am sure technically they would appear to show the same skill level that you see in my other work and yet, I don’t usually fall in love with those canvases. I wrote a lot for two years. Stray thoughts after reading a book, watching a movie or chatting with a friend. Sometimes after a fight with my man. And then once I started painting the big faces on canvas I just stopped writing. It all came out in the eyes…”

Aarohi has held both solo and group art shows since starting as an artist is 1989. She started painting full time in 2008 and is available for custom assignments. “I love them and hate them. They push me out of my comfort zone to try and see if I can connect with someone else artistically- to give voice to their thought/idea… I have a website called www.artbyaarohi.com and you can find me on www.facebook.com/artbyaarohi and on Instagram – www.instagram.com/artbyaarohi.”

Aarohi Singh/ Art By Aarohi/ Once Upon A Tea Time

This article first appeared in the September 2014 issue of the OUATT magazine. All images are courtesy of Aarohi Singh and are taken by Supreet Singh.

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