“Going back can sometimes be fatal”
Chandigarh-based artist Malkit Singh shares his inhibitions on remembering things from past.
THE MAIN DOOR OF HIS apartment is open. One just walks in. He later says that there is nothing to steal in his house. “Well, if a thief breaks-in just for art, he deserves to take it all,” he says.
Artist Malkit Singh might look frail after his recent open-heart surgery, but offers to make tea while a half empty bottle of Johnnie Walker Red stares at us from a rack. “Small pleasures of life you see. After all, one has to keep the heart beating,” he smiles.
The meeting is regarding his recently completed painting which is making waves and is being exhibited widely, including galleries in Mumbai and Chandigarh. Titled ‘Waiting’, he has tried to recreate the proceedings when he was on the operation table. “The doctors had sharp instruments, the technicians kept looking at me. Suddenly the women staff appeared to be rudaalis.
It seemed they would start the mourning ritual anytime. My heart sank,” says the 74-year-old.
Originally conceived as a series, Singh says he might stop at one painting. He remembers his trip to Japan just after the Tsunami. When he asked the organisers if he could paint the tragedy, they refused. “They said they didn’t want to remember the bitterness of the past, the rage of the ocean. How can you not? I see the deep wound on my chest every day. Sometimes I open my shirt and look into the mirror. Who knows what all
I see the deep wound on my chest every day. Sometimes I open my shirt and wonder, who knows what all was taken away.
was taken away.”
But how can an artist like him escape the past, the one, whose ultra-modern apartment’s every corner has images from his village Lande in district Moga “You know, everyone I knew in my village has passed away, all my friends. But I still go there regularly. I see their houses, the places, the labyrinths where we hid, the corners that sheltered our gossip. I also visit the fields where I had scattered the ashes of my deceased family members. I don’t know if anyone will do that for me.”
‘Waiting’, which strikes out with red colour, offers little relief and makes one silent. The colour does not depict rage. “The uniformity is supposed to remind us of the dangers that lurk behind creation of an atmosphere, where diverse voices are not welcomed, where the powerful are scared of even a minute tone of dissent.”