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Artist Profile1
D. Ebenezer Sunder Singh pens his thoughts
“I collect my memories; put them on my canvas; turn them into metal, all the while using tones trembling with feeling. The past weighs me down. So I use the mode of sensuality to explore the nuances of spirituality. Feeling the tones helps the present to cut open the past, revealing the unseen. My signs are here as open idioms, exposed to eternity and joining hands with the art of the past.”

Starting from a small temple town in the south India, Tirunelveli, built around a massive temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, I reached Chennai for my fine art education at the Govt. College of Arts and Crafts. Here, I enhanced my knowledge of temple sculptures, and also grasped international art history and trends.

Inspired by the works of modern masters, the German expressionists in particular, I started doing expressive drawings. These drawings were mostly done with pen and Ink or charcoal on paper. After every Portrait and the Full-Figure class I tried in every angle to distort the figure in drawing so as to understand the Psychological nature of a human being. I let the emotions guide me in the drawings.

The same working process later helped me in my creative drawings and paintings. In this period I did most of my paintings in Oil or Gouache, but used mostly paper. Large sheet of papers were stuck together to make a larger one; I fixed the paper on the College display boards and painted over it. In all these exercises I learnt, that emotion and cathartic fervor are tools of Art to reach the core of wisdom. This Knowledge unconsciously became my life’s principle and continues to be the same till today.

The paintings of Paul Cézanne and his principles of Art influenced me immensely. From his work principles I understood the traditional Indian painting methods. I took notice of the ‘Flat Depth’, ‘the multiple viewpoints’ that existed for centuries in the murals of Ajanta, the Tanjore style and in the miniature paintings of Bundi and Pahari.

After I was granted a scholarship by the Government of India, I started a series of works at the Lalit Kala Akademi, called ‘flat figurations’. These oil paintings were of figures rendered in an abstract mode with a linear figure drawing outlining the flat abstract energy. I was painting my own self in this process. My body became the tool for every work and I painted mostly the sensations of my body. I began participating in state, and regional exhibitions.

I continued to work at the LKA studio for a year as a paying artist before moving to the Cholamandal Artists Village. I rented out a studio/living space in the Artists village and continued to live and work there. In the new environment I moved out of the Cezannesque mode of painting and was gradually changing my work.

Every Psychological and Philosophical problem resulted in an image and these pictorial symbols sprouted from the unconscious. I rendered the images in watercolor medium. I also worked on large canvases in oil. By now my works had taken a personal and an individual direction. Acrylic paint and Charcoal were the mediums that yielded to my emotion. With acrylic I painted fiercely and afterwards delineated the form with charcoal. For this method handmade paper became the ideal surface tool.

The activity during college days when I connected pieces of handmade paper with glue to make it a bigger sheet worked again. I did acrylic paintings on handmade paper. The glued corners of the sheet and the rough surface of the handmade paper added to the emotions and I worked on a series.

In 1996, I had my first solo show titled called’ The Hollow Men, The Stuffed Men’ at the ‘Easel Art Gallery, Chennai. During this phase, a subtle transformation in the physical appearance of my work occurred. In 1999, I won the Charles Wallace Scholarship’, and joined the Kingston University, Surrey for a short program in print making. I had two exhibitions in the UK. With a new awareness I returned to the Cholamandal studio. I continued to produce small works done with acrylic on hand made paper and canvas. I started to work on life size fiberglass sculptures and in painting I proceeded from canvas to Painting Books.

By creating a space inside my painting studio for my sculpture works, I worked on life size human figures keeping my body as the reference. I toiled in clay everyday to give life to my figures. Then with the help of a sculptor friend I went for moulding and casting the figures in Fiberglass. My sculptures had the identity of that of a painter. I painted the sculptures with Resin and Pigments and gave a cubistic pictorial look to it. It is a play between three dimensions and two dimensions. The three dimensional sculpture held a two dimensional pictorial quality to it.

Gradually, I began to include written statements in my paintings. These were not the titles but they were part of the image painted. I also went to the US after I won the prestigious Fulbright scholarship that took me to The Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University-Boston. My Fulbright project was to paint images related to the Renaissance Christian paintings and the Hindu Iconography.

I am a Christian, but I believe in universality in the philosophies of all religions. The Religious symbols with psychological motifs that marked my oeuvre were based on the same thought. My recent paintings revolve around Humanistic principles. With the Human figure as the central element of my pictures, (my works) shift time and space to locate the psychological characteristics and the principles of life.