The art of performance

A woman with many feathers in her cap, Delhi-based Saheba Singh talks about what motivates her to create, what fuels her work, and how she balances it all out

Published: 03rd July 2021 05:21 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd July 2021 08:02 AM   |  A+A-

Works by the artist, inspired by many mediums

Express News Service

Design entrepreneur and author Saheba Singh, 39, is one of the few artists in India doing live/ kinetic art. Her process involves music coordinated with a live art performance during which she makes paintings on large canvases with charcoal as the main medium. Currently working on a series in charcoal by the way of live art called Razaa, this South-Ex resident says, “I started it in March last year, It’s organic. I might do it for a year and then do something else and then come back to it....” Excerpts from an interview:
How did you get attracted to art?
Art was something I always had in my life, in some form of the other. It was only when my random doodles and sketches began getting appreciated and validated that I realised there really might be something worth exploring. Today, it is the biggest and most important part of my life.
When did the idea of doing live art strike?
I have been following the work of Heather Hensen and Zara Abraham for a while now and every time I saw their works, something in my soul moved and I knew that this was what I wanted to do - flow with what I create. So one day, I just laid out a huge piece of paper on the floor in a room, put a song on loop and there it was. The first work of my series of live art called Razaa. There is something so soothing when your body, your medium and music all align and something is created. It is my favourite kind of expression.

Why use charcoal to express yourself as an artist? Do you indulge in colours too?
I love the versatile and ruthless nature of charcoal as a medium. It can be as aggressive and as gentle as you need it to be. It is also moody as hell and once you layer something with charcoal hard enough-it just won’t go. It has a mind of its own. It is the easiest medium to live with if you synergise with it and love it, but if you keep getting worried about how all its bare surfaces are going to turn whatever it touches black, then you’ve had it. It just won’t work with you. I love charcoal and all its tantrums.
I don’t really work with colour unless it’s a coloured background. I’m not really a colour person. My wardrobe is all black and white. There might be some greys and golds for good measure but I get claustrophobic if I have colour on my body waist up. And since my art is an extension of me, I don’t really find myself working with colour very often.
Your favourite artist?
So many! But these days, I am totally tripping on Kazua Shiraga and Bosco Sodi’s work. The intensity and techniques these two have mastered and the force of their work leaves me speechless every time. I’m not one who likes to get mesmerised or transported to another world when I see art. Art has to suck me in when I stand in front of it. Their work does that for me. It’s insanely powerful.
You have clothing and a home décor line and have written a book too. Which one of these is closest to your heart, and why?
Art, because it is all mine. My art is exactly what I want to create, exactly what I want to communicate, implement exactly the way you want. My art is a perfect extension and expression of who I am. It is how I meditate and align myself.

There is no client brief, no market trend to study, and no pressure to convert it to a sale as is the case with design or even a book.
With design, you have to fine-tune everything for utility. It has to be commercially viable and also conform to the current socio-economic mood, and finally the execution of the design is in someone else’s hands. I design the spaces, art clothes and furniture, but the execution is done by other agencies. Similarly, once you’ve written a book, a team of publishers, editors, designers and illustrators move in, so (in that sense) even a book is not all yours.


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