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Schandra Singh's new obliquely satirical paintings
Schandra Singh's work is driven by an apparent need to foster frank communication in a time of palpable emotional uncertainty.

Her new solo show, entitled ‘If I'm Immune To It, I Don't Deserve To Be Here’ at New York based Bose Pacia includes large-scale works on linen and some smaller portraits. In addition to her new works, she also showcases a couple of her most influential early paintings for the first time - a large work of American founding fathers whirling in a rose garden and a meticulously detailed canvas of the World Trade Towers that survived her demolished studio opposite the towers.

These two earlier works prompted the artist to contemplate over the variegated perceptions of communal and personal security and leisure. The exhibition offers an opportunity to explore the progression of this talented artist from her earlier works to the latest fantastically depicted oblige tourists floating down a lazy river.

Born in Suffern, NY in 1997, she lives and works in Poughkeepsie, NY. The artist did her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, R.I., and completed her Masters from Yale University School of Art, New Haven, CT. Among her major solo exhibitions are ‘Age of Anxiety’, Volta NY, Galerie Bertrand & Gruner, NY (2009); and ‘The Sun is not Ridiculous’, Galerie Bertrand & Gruner, Geneva (2009).

Putting her painterly processes in the contemporary context, a curatorial note to her latest exhibition states: “Within the history of figurative painting the choice of subject is always one of certain significance. And with the resurgence of representational painting practices through neo-expressionism, and even more recently, an emphasis on irony, satire, and the confluence of the beautiful grotesque has come to the forefront. Her larger than life images of tourists and locals lingering in the sun are a smart and well-formulated re-mediation of the Western fetishization of leisure time.”

The passionate painter, who mostly works in the medium of oil and gouache, touches upon shared social and political realities. At times it’s a pure expression of a given situation, or it’s a fine blending of imagery: towers into people, roses into founding fathers. Striated and fragmented, her representation of the human form is unconventional. The image starts becoming paradoxically more abstract, as she digs into greater detail. The outcome is a beautifully colored, albeit slightly unnerving, composition of sunning tourists engrossed in their multi-faceted existences.

Indeed, Schandra Singh's paintings transport us to a purgatorial space of curiously contrived paradise. What might outwardly seem like an innocuous theme turns out to be one loaded with extreme tension and visual dynamism, as the artist captures complex shades of modern life. She has mentioned of her work, “As an artist whose cultural heritage stems from Austria and India, I employ the mode of storytelling of the Indian miniature painter. It’s juxtaposed with inspirations of neo–expressionism. In a world where we are often asked to take a side to know the answers, my work looks to challenge the viewer by not didactically presenting one way, but simply by addressing my fears to express a (specific) human condition.”

One notices smaller figures that lurk in the nooks and crannies of the images compounding the sense of unrest. The minutely detailed painted surface also gives us passages of untouched linen canvas as a space for contemplation. According to Greg Tate through her ‘obliquely satirical’ visual taxonomy of Western tourism, the artist wants to whisk us off to Paradise and then make us gasp in horror at the human debris wealth has deposited and left on display in her cold-eyed memory theatre’.

The art critic notes in an essay: “What she compels us to look at instead is the queasy face of leisure and privilege on holiday. What she would have us side-glance at instead is the invisibility of the ethnic, the servile and the exotic in the eyes of beholders self-marooned in Paradise. Singh has redirected the gaze of our Occidental tourist selves from contemplation of our navels to complicity in our own vulnerability to dissipation. In sight of Singh's obliquely satirical paintings we are made to see ourselves dissolving in acidic torrents of false security, anthropomorphic anxiety and delusional spectacles of excess, waste and wealth.”

The artist deftly documents a group of people suspended in the heavily precarious interstitial state between anxiety and leisure while holidaying. Translating the individuals into large-scale paintings Schandra Singh prompts an investigation of the false sense of world security.