Artist Interview: Kaveri Singh

Kaveri Singh is a Los Angeles based artist who recently led more than 40 artists from around the world to complete her design for the Sacred Murals Project in Sarnath, India. She works with textiles, glass and ceramics to produce murals, decorative art, specialty finishes and custom artwork that reflect her love of pattern and design.

For DZINE Gallery’s Pattern Language exhibition, Singh produced a work that explores the patterns of nature in profound and spiritual ways. She began with a large clear glass panel and water-gilded it in silver leaf, creating a mirrored effect. The reverse was japanned with numerous layers of lacquer, linen wrapped and japanned again. Inspired by the natural patterns observed in lakes and ponds, Singh engraved this pattern with a quill into the silver leaf. The viewer examining the work will catch her reflection on the reflective surface.

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HOW DID GROWING UP IN INDIA INFLUENCE YOUR WORK AS AN ARTIST? WHAT OTHER EARLY INFLUENCES LED YOU DOWN THE PATH OF BECOMING AN ARTIST?

Growing up in India, I was surrounded by ever-present forms of decoration: the sacred, the mundane and the profane, equally represented. The sense of time, space and the cyclical nature of existence; the sense of rigidity that exists in the ritual and the fluidity that permeates space. All contradictions that bound happily together, the coexistence of man and nature, all jostling for the same square inch, giving way to each other sometimes in conflict and sometimes in harmony. The ever-present concept that space and time was in some way fluid, that whether time was cosmic, astrological, mythical or sacred, it never had a single point of view.

The arts in India, whether dance, music, paint or sculpture, are constantly exploring this ever-changing layered concept of perception of time and space. In that perspective, scale, color, stylizations, etc. are employed, the idea being that beauty is innate and the job of the artist is to tap into that sense of awareness, which connects the object, the viewer and the maker. This connection then goes in all directions and explodes the sense of space and time; it reveals the experience as one.

I could not do justice or describe the concept of “rasa,” which is a thread that runs through society and the arts. But a simple translation of the word in Sanskrit (‘juice’ or ‘essence’) denotes an essential mental state and is the dominant emotional theme of a work of art or the primary feeling that is evoked in the person that views, reads or hears such a work. This concept has always been present and has informed my work in many ways.

TELL ME ABOUT THE INSPIRATION BEHIND YOUR PIECE “UNTITLED I: NAGA SERIES” THAT IS ON DISPLAY IN OUR PATTERN LANGUAGE EXHIBITION.

The piece speaks to this concept of “rasa,” as the reflective quality merges the viewer and the piece. Untitled I: Naga Series is based on a photograph of water by Margo Van Berkum of shadows on water. I was drawn to the fluidity of the space, the nature of movement, and the lens through which one could observe.

In the midst of that, I met Ricardo Lamy Freund. Our stories seem to come together in a very interesting way. In 2012, I got involved with maybe the largest project I have been a part of: painting a mural in a huge hall in a Buddhist center in Sarnath. Ricardo was the person in charge of preparing the ground for what was to come. We didn’t meet at the time, but finally connected in 2015. His unorthodox background with art and craft with different materials and his connection to the beauty rhythms of nature was the last ingredient to make our first piece of the Naga Series. That was the piece that sealed the partnership to come.

HOW EXPERIMENTAL DO YOU GET WITH TRYING OUT NEW MATERIALS?

Given the mix of knowledge and our different backgrounds, we have been getting very experimental about the materials we use. Just recently, we spent a few months in India and took our time to look at the different natural resources to see if we could draw some inspiration from them. Designs around the world are so diverse and we feel that the techniques used in the different cultures are so rich, that there is definitely something to be learned in each one of them. The key is to draw something out from all this knowledge and make something that is relevant to the here and now. We came up with some interesting ideas for different pieces of art as well as furniture, luminaire and more.

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW? DO YOU HAVE ANY NEW, EXCITING PROJECTS IN THE PIPELINE FOR 2016?

Concrete, glass, metals, stone; right now we are not limiting ourselves to what we use, but we do have a clear idea of how we want it to look. We are hoping to come up with a collection by this fall.

Next: Paul Graham: The Whiteness of the Whale