Expressions on canvas

veteran artist

Expressions on canvas
Among the many art practices that have been in vogue conventionally, the works done in oils and acrylics have lorded over the show. But on the side, there have been equally attractive forms of art making, of which silk screen printing is a form that fired the muse of veteran artist Paramjit Singh.

His large body of work in this format, executed over the last four decades, stands out for its rich imagery, their strong yet subtle colours, and the simplicity of the subjects that he portrays. Unlike other artists who have taken on this medium merely out of curiosity, or at best as an academic exercise during their formative years, this veteran master never moved away from this medium and today, he is, by far, the maker of the finest specimens of this art form in the country.


A new medium

Like all students, this artist narrates how his first acquaintance with this form of art making was more consequential than planned. “The only exposure at that time were a few exhibitions of graphics, including silk screen prints from European countries and USA,” he says. According to the artist, the arrival of this art form was as an offshoot of the etching department of the College of Art in New Delhi, where veteran artist Jagmohan Chopra was experimenting with it using cheap indigenous materials.

The form had taken root in the young student, but it was to blossom into actuality when, as a lecturer, Paramjit Singh was searching for a new medium to express his artistic inclinations. Before long, he realised that the rather slow take-off of silk screen printing at that time had been due to a paucity of materials in the 70s. Hence, the day he and his friend Surinder Singh Chandok scoured the local markets for material for silk screen printing has remained a memorable one in his life.

By now, the decision had been made that Paramjit Singh would opt for being a silk screen artist as avenues had slowly opened up with the Garhi Studios in New Delhi being equipped for this work. But now this artist was faced with the problem of plenty as the plethora of options for preparing stencils loomed large before him. The dice was cast in favour of hand-cut paper stencils because his compositions were largely centred around squares drawn towards an illuminated central portion that served as the symbolic representation of purity in the form of a lotus.

The colours were, by and large, flat. But their tonal variations suggested different planes of thought concentrating around the central aura that was suggestive of a tantric overlay for his viewers, without the artist consciously trying to create such an idea.

As his silk screen advanced into the 80s, human figures and nature images like  clouds, butterflies and flowers seeped on to the screen, and the art acquired a definitive narrative about the relationship between man and his environment. The decade of the 90s altered his works from being inward-centric into a window-view of the outdoors as the space transformed into a human habitation and a personal space where moods and attitudes, rather than the beauties of nature, became central to the theme.

While the effects of the strong fumes and solvents used for silk screen making began to affect his health, this veteran master’s silk screen phase had to be tempered with other forms of art such as acrylic and oil works on canvas. And while the medium had changed, the thought process had not been totally uprooted. Into the scheme of artistic things in the life of Paramjit Singh, today, there has crept what seems to be another expression of his artistic side. “The thought process has its own journey to reveal. From basic shapes to nature’s elements and human figures was an experience in itself. It was a journey exploring my inner self,” he explains.

Today, Paramjit Singh continues to be a painter who speaks his mind out on the canvas. While the method of expressing his thoughts through the medium of silk screen printing has been held in abeyance, the march of the oil on canvas and acrylics phase continues to impress his viewers with their meaningful format.

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