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Artist Profile2
Spotlight on three sensitive female artists with unique oeuvre
Ranjani Shettar, born in Bangalore in 1977 is known for her elegant ethereal sculptural installations. Explaining her thought process, she has said, “There’s an element of chance in the way you see the sculpture, specifically in terms of how it manages to position itself in space according to movement of air in the space.” Her ‘Varsha’, an artist’s book courtesy the Library Council of MOMA in late 2012, evokes different aspects of 16 phases of the mesmerizing monsoon and the classical Indian astronomy used for predicting them. The accordion-folding volume includes original prints that correspond to a rainy season’s specific period. Anita Desai has contributed an essay for the project along with poetry by Rabindranath Tagore and Bhavabhūti.

An accompanying note elaborates: “The artist’s drawn, painted, and photographic representations of changing skies, new vegetation, and other effects of monsoon rains are rendered in etching, silkscreen, hand-carved woodcut, pigment printing, and laser cut. The varied images (prepared on teakwood blocks, etching plates, and paper) in the artist’s studio in rural Karnataka show a range of intensities of shadow and light, color, and texture to express the passage of diverse elemental experiences - a sky filled with darkening, premonitory clouds; a splash of gentle rain on a window; hoofprints on the ground.”

Cutout patterns of tiny spheres on all prints symbolize the constellations in the sky during the period when first the expectation and then the actual rains drive the rhythms of life. In her artistic treatment of these star clusters, she alludes to the ancient Indian star charts formed some 5,000 years ago and still widely employed in agriculture and calendars to decide the farming and religious events scheduling across the subcontinent. Her work has been exhibited at The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Delhi; and the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; among other institutions. First Museum solo of this internationally renowned artist took place in India at Dr.Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai, late last year.

Bharti Prajapati’s canvases often revel in bright colors plus stark expanses of vast space. The sparse-looking landscape to go with the open skies strikes a perfect balance in her captivating compositions. The daily life of the common people is exalted, as if to celebrate their relationship with nature. Her grooming as a textile designer (She studied Textile Design at Mumbai’s Sophia Polytechnic, and later at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad.) has helped her enhance the intricate detailing of her canvases even while composing the larger picture. A flat expanses and contrast of detail tends to create a harmonious blend in them. The Ahmedabad-based artist has had several exhibit of her wonderful work both in India and internationally.

Over the last two decades, her shows have been held at Radisson Gallery, New Delhi (2000); Cymroza Art Gallery, Mumbai (1999, 2001); Galerie Dauphin' Singapore (1999, 2000); Art Focus ,Singapore (1999); Ravishankar Raval Kala Bhavan, Ahmedabad (1998); Gallerie Lavelle, Bangalore (1995); Sanduka, Bangalore; and Objects of Desire, Bangalore (solo exhibition, titled 'Women & Walls') in 1996. She has featured in several group exhibition including 'Figures in Sculptures and Paintings', Jamaat Art Gallery, Mumbai (2010); and one at C.P. Art Centre & Cymroza in Chennai (2000).

The people of Kutch, with their strong cultural roots and ethnic style have had a significant impact on her as an artist. Their vibrant and vivacious way of life; the captivating contrasts of the arid, dry and vast landscape along with the various vivid hues of its cultural heritage have prompted her to keenly explore its germination through canvases. Her earnest desire to transform her experience reflects in her paintings. On the other hand, described as a figurative artist and a modernist, Arpita Singh still makes it a point to stay tuned to traditional Indian art forms and aesthetics like miniaturist painting and folk art.

The way in which she uses perspective and the narrative in her work is steeped in the miniaturist traditions and a reflection of her background. Known to create deeply and intensely personal works through a mélange of images and signs she has developed over close to five long decades of practice. Her highly intricate and multi-layered paintings are often autobiographical in nature, with subtle references to myth and history, nuances of traditional art, current happenings, and traces of popular culture.

She first studied at Delhi School of Art under the keen eye of artist Sailoz Mookherjea, before joining the Weaver's Service Centre in Kolkata and Delhi. Since her first solo in 1972, her work has been featured at major art venues in Indian and internationally. For an artist who effortlessly merges everyday life and allegory, expressionism and ornament, who harks back to historical folk and miniature painting, her formal approach is at once unassuming and painstaking, somewhat femininely gauche and pensively poised. Her paintings seem to be bursting at the seams with teeming life forms and objects or motifs as icons of contemporary life. Soaked in subtle shades of watercolors and oils, Arpita Singh simulates a dream-like realm, or perhaps a scenario recreated while hallucinating. A price tag of Rs 9.6 crore (close to $2.25 million) for her ‘Wish Dream’, a monumental (16-piece; 24-by-13-ft) mural, broke quite a few records in 2010. The price was the highest ever for a work by an Indian female artist to be offered in auction at that point of time.