A New Vanguard – Gagandeep Singh
Seventy days, twenty five artists, five sessions and a lot of art works, well defines the summer day-residency art program of Religare Arts Initiative. The exhibition featured multidisciplinary artworks. All artists were encouraged to find diverse threads within the unifying theme of “Connaught Place, The Why not Place???. Each artist was identified on the basis of being secure in their craft and well on their journey to finding their own artistic voice. While some of the artists belonged to Delhi others were migrants to this city.
It is the secret anxieties of a migrant that the works of Gagandeep Singh express – a fear that never subsides however he gets naturalized in his new environ. Religious and social history comes under his microscopic analysis, as he creates a series of narratives using ink drawings as his medium. These also reveal the secret pleasures that the city offers. These narratives are quirky critiques on a city- perhaps not about Connaught Place alone. The linearity of drawings, the simplicity of thematic selection and the complexity of conceptualizing the theme are starkly noticeable in Gagan’s works.
The alchemy of enrolling in art classes, reading Sikh history, taking Amrit, visiting art galleries, reciting the bani, and leaping out into the unknown, led Gagan to a life defined by art and spirituality. A recurrent theme in his work is Sikh history- it’s anecdotes and narratives, religious and secular. He also extensively explores Sikh miniature drawing practices and has incorporated techniques and elements from the same into his works, to build a style that foregrounds the art and stories of the past with a very contemporary sensibility and a very fresh and absolutely original vocabulary.
Pen, ink, and paper are a medium he has mastered with a rare sensitivity and passion. He approaches each idea as a visual storyteller; first taking photographs of his subject, and then drawing numerous sketches before he settles on a final design. He then combines text, other images, and even symbols, to balance the composition of the piece. As a rule, he lets the vision materialize on its own, without pre-determining the outcome. "I never try to envision the final result, because then it would become too boring for me. So I keep on changing the line quality, the form, and especially the theme, to allow for variations as they emerge."
Boredom, he says, is a signal to take a break from the piece and exchange fresh ideas with other artists, spend time at an art gallery, or travel to a new territory in his imagination in order to keep his work captivating. He says "Everything today seems to be weighed down by the temporality of things; people have so much to say about life, but it is mostly depressing, vague, confusing and fantasy-like. I explore Sikh history and spirituality in my work, and it helps me remain crystal clear. It's as if it has become as necessary as air and water."
He remains true to Sikhism as his subject matter and finds himself with an unlimited source of themes, ranging from Sikh history to Sikh architecture to verses from the bani.