An Artist's Gaze

Saarthak Singh focuses his artist's eye on technology and the people who use it I have always been fascinated by images. My fondest memories are of long walks with my mother, gazing at clouds and imagining creatures into existence. The walks have now stopped, but the gazing continues. My engagement with art, though, has hardly been poetic. I was encouraged to doodle with pencil and dabble in paint, as most children are, going on to copy biology diagrams for my brother at school; so much so that I ended up studying it as a subject in my last years at school. It was here that I endeavoured to transform what was perhaps nothing more than a hobby into a more personal space for self-discovery, reading, visiting galleries, meeting artists, and learning to paint from books and the internet. Yet, I was always a little over scrupulous, carefully constructing images rather than spontaneously conjuring them up. In hindsight, however, it was probably this almost academic concern with representation that somehow allowed me weave together layer-upon-layer of meaning into the painting, though sometimes at the risk of the larger picture.  I enjoy drawing and painting in oils and watercolours and prefer doing portraits in particular, though I have done some landscapes as well, on vacations to the mountains and the backwaters. In my portraits, I am particularly concerned with various issues broadly regarding ‘identity’, both individual and social—ideas not externally manifested, but quietly contained, which I try to explore through the paradoxical relationship between the chaotic forces within and the rational, coherent appearances without. I initially did a lot of ‘live’ portraits and self-portraits, and do so now as well, but prefer to focus on the fundamental, complex expressions.  In one of my last paintings purposefully titled TTYL, I explore the changing nature of social identity in our increasingly gadget-driven age. The painting shows how we are all inextricably caught up in our phones and (virtual) social networks, or rather, an entire way of life. I have tried to capture, in the expressions of the ‘texters’, a loneliness, an emptiness, and a somewhat eerie immersion in their mobile phones. The hands, here, become a metaphor to describe the power equation between the gadget and the user and so does the projected image of the phone on the face. On the left, a girl seductively invites the viewer into the virtual reality while on the right there are various people texting away, presenting the real reality. I have attempted to present a sense of loneliness compounded—that we (use) Facebook and fauxt (fake texting) often not to appear lonely, yet that is what makes us more and more lonely.  All expression is relegated to emoticons as social networking becomes a world unto itself - an imagined community, and in this sense, saps of our identity, turning it into a virtual essence of profile pictures, status updates, and comments. I am also toying with the idea that in this age obsoleteness, if gadgets are becoming passé sooner than one sets eyes on them, so are our relationships.The painting is however steeped in ambiguity, for I am myself as much an insider as an outsider to this little universe. And if all paintings are supposed to be self-portraits by nature, so is this, but taking on the form of a larger phenomenological portrait. Saarthak SinghImages - Saarthak Singh

Art Inspirations

From wall crayoning to commissions, Madeline H. Lucas explains how her artwork has developed throughout her life Art has always been quite inherent to me as a way of self-expression, so I have never given it a huge amount of consideration. I’ve doodled for as long as I can recall, even if it was with a crayon all over the walls as a three year-old. More often than not when I sketch, I tend to favour using a biro over a pencil – possibly because of its fixedness and darker colour, and that it can be used as easily as a pencil for shading (I am a big fan of cross-hatching). The added bonus is that it doesn’t smudge beneath my hand (being left-handed, this is a common issue that I’m sure others will be familiar with).I have experimented with a lot of different mediums in traditional art, including a long period when I was 11 or 12, and would only ever use gouache or watercolours. A lot of what I have learned when working with colour, however, has come directly from my background in Photoshop. Starting when I was around 13, I broke myself into the programme through extraneous trial and error, and hours of playing around with all it had to offer. Soon after I bought myself a Wacom tablet, and so began a three year period where most of my art was purely digital. From this I realised the importance of a palette and a colour scheme, and many habits – probably somewhat unique – that have continued into my traditional art, such as choosing one particular colour as an overarching theme, and the manner in which I tend to build up the layers of a painting: rough at first, refined at the finish; and having some areas ‘out of focus’ while other zones can be sharpened and more detailed. Usually now when painting I will use acrylic, because of its versatility and because it is quick-drying (unlike oils). My relationship with art has always been capricious. I continued with it at school right up to my A-Levels, and although I always received excellent marks, the rapport I had with my art teacher (who taught me for four years) was always a little tense. He strictly dictated that our inspirations and historical studies throughout projects should be of the 20th century: namely, the Surrealists, H. R. Giger, or Banksy. On one particular occasion I chose instead the Pre-Raphaelites, and received no mentoring from him as a result. Fortunately, while studying Art History for the first two years here at St Andrews, I felt my horizons expanding immeasurably from the broad array of art covered. I discovered new artists who I adore: Van Dyke and Gainsborough, Vermeer, Ruisdael, Courbet and Millet, Goya, and one of my favourites, Gustave Caillebotte. But as studies continued past the First World War I felt my interest waning. I have the distinct feeling that people who enjoy and appreciate post-1945 art are those who do no art themselves.  Art is extremely close to my heart: it is a part of who I am, and something that I will never give up. I don’t consider it as a career choice (though I earned my wages through the summer painting portrait commissions), but I doubt it will ever leave me – it is too deeply ingrained to be going anywhere soon. Madeline H. LucasImage credits - Madeline H. Lucas

Art Dubai

Last month’s Art Dubai, the biggest art fair in the Middle East, showcased some of the most provocative art yet to come from arguably the most volatile region in the world, currently suffering from a wildfire of uprisings. As Dubai’s art movement is growing exponentially, this year’s fair featured over five hundred artists in some eighty galleries. The timing of 2011’s Art Dubai, in the midst of the Arab Spring, however, has given this year’s show far greater meaning. As Tunisia and Egypt have taken the lead in successfully toppling their former authoritarian regimes, they have inspired protests all throughout the region, in countries ranging from Bahrain to Yemen.As protesters across the region continue to be inspired by their neighbours, they are not the only ones inspired. The art world has been utterly captivated with these movements for political change as well. Many artists, often themselves involved in the protests, have been moved by their fellow citizen’s courage, resilience, and sacrifice in overcoming oppression in often violent and chaotic demonstrations. As the spotlight of the art world was cast on Dubai, this inspiration was on full display for the world to see.Specifically, one booth in an Artspace gallery titled “Revolution” featured works by famous Egyptian artist Khaled Hafez, known for his politically motivated paintings. Hafez’s contributions to the gallery included two pieces titled “Revolution: 11.02.2011 – The Sniper and the Sky War”, as well as its counterpart, “Revolution: 11.02.2011 –Snipers, Cats, and Sky Sweepers”. While fusing ancient iconography with modern imagery of snipers and protesters, Hafez has created an image symbolising the struggle of the Egyptian people. Hafez himself a participant in Egypt’s uprising, paid homage to those lost in the violence.A Moroccan artist, Zakaria Ramhani, displayed a buzz-worthy piece titled “Bye Bye Hosni”, portraying an image of a protester displaying a Facebook like button on his shirt, while tearing down a poster of the former President. Ramhani, too, is making a political statement, and in a sense paying homage to the social media platform of Facebook, for helping to enable the rebellion among the youth of Egypt.Evidently, artists such as Hafez and Ramhani have found the revolutions of the Arab Spring as an incredible source of inspiration for their work. As the Dubai art scene continues to grow, it is likely artists of the Middle East will continue to showcase this revolutionary fervour that has so intensely engaged the wider world.  As history has shown us, art and current affairs can often be a complicated pair, yet artists of the region are overcoming this, displaying their national pride. Julianne Funk