“However far I travel, I walk with memories of my earth. Remembrance of sights, sounds, the soil, the people and the chaos. Through all this I pursue my art so that I can distil that something which is eternal and simple.”
– Shambhavi Singh on her roots and influences from her hometown, Patna, Bihar.
Housed in Chilla village near the banks of the Yamuna is artist Shambhavi Singh’s studio where she welcomed the Delhi batch of 2013-14 of the Partner a Master mentorship program to come and be mentored by her.
Shambhavi’s works have always been influenced by the frugal, involved life of the farmer. She discovered the importance of land and the farmers who nurtures the land at a young age and that is what she wanted the participants to discover through the experience of the workshop.
After explaining the significant role the farmer plays in her works and relevance of the subject in a modern, urban framework, she asked the children to think about it and draw their perception of the situation they imagine on a circular piece of paper.
The wheels of the twenty-one minds in the room jerked into motion and ideas quickly filled onto the strangely, but very thought provoking, shaped paper. Whilst one child utilised the shape by drawing a reflection of a framer and the sky in a well, another decided to highlight the heart wrenching rate of farmer suicides.
It was commendable to note that even though all of the participants were born and brought up in an urban landscape, they were aware and sensitive to the present situation of rural India, where the livelihood of farmer is at stake.
To get more inspiration for their work and actually observe the hardship faced by farmers in today’s fast urbanising framework the students and the artist went the Yamuna bed farmlands, where they met villagers from nearby villages, who shared their experience of displacement due to the Yamuna flooding over every year. She wanted them to feel the struggle and helplessness that the farmer and his family feel and translate that into art.
Back at her studio, Shambhavi made a comfortable space for the students in the heart of the various pieces of her ongoing project, where each one shared what they had seen and how their understanding of a farmer’s life, as being almost a bystander to the rest of our lives, had evolved after the field trip. They went on to do a watercolour sketch of what they had observed.
She additionally wanted them to work with cotton pulp, which was an exciting, volatile new medium for the students. The purpose of this was to shift from basic annotations to the more challenging three dimensional formations of observations. Shambhavi inspired them to express their thoughts in a simplified minimalistic manner without making them craft objects. She introduced them to the technique of using and sculpting in pulp. After creating the desired form, they applied paint with brushes and their hands.
The aim of her project was to make the students come out of their comfort zone and concentrate on creating artistic memories, the nuances of which stays with them long after the 16 hour process spent with her. She wanted them to experience what the farmer feels like, barely hanging on to the periphery of our existence, while ironically being vital to our survival.