Posted on: Thursday April 29, 2010
When one takes a close look at one of his landscapes, one would notice trees, shrubs, a bit of sky and maybe grassy paths, but the palpable absence of fauna, birds or any human being only serves to reinforce a deep sense of fantasy and timelessness. Singh's canvases evoke dream-worlds: "the fruit of solitary sojourns in Nature's labyrinth".
In the serious art world, landscapes as a genre is critically considered somewhat lacking in depth as a form of expression. In this context, Paramjit Singh's landscapes continue to stand out for the freshness of his approach and his tremendous fluency and technical expertise with the medium.
Since the late 1950s, Paramjit Singh has undergone many stages in the imagery he employs but he has always used landscape elements in his canvases.
The artist himself does not like to be described as a landscape artist. On being asked why this is the case, he says, "I don't mind being described as such. I am definitely a painter of Nature. What matters is the concept of landscape. I am a painter of Nature, not an illustrator of Nature. I paint the moods of Nature and its other elements, like the air, texture...I use Nature and I invent my landscape."
There is often a debate on whether his works are imaginary or real. He explains: "I never sketch on the spot, I just keep in mind the juxtaposition of different elements of Nature, of different kinds of light. The details are gone, just the mood remains. It doesn't really exist, but you're part of it. It comes from existence, from the essence of Nature. When I travel, whether it is in the hills of Himachal Pradesh or in Scotland, I never sit down and sketch. I use the gift of Nature."
From the very start, Nature has had a strong hold on Singh's works. As a child he grew up in Amritsar where at the time, there was not much city life. There were hardly any houses, just vast tracts of fields. In Delhi College of Art, his mentor, Sailoz Mukherjee, discussed The Expressionists and painters like Chagall, Matisse, Monet and Modigliani. His childhood memories began to surface. And in Delhi he would often cycle to the Ridge and go to Mehrauli. He was very fond of the Delhi ridges. The wilderness of the ridges had a deep influence on his works.
When one takes a close look at the concerned painting it seems as if one is in the midst of the woods and taking a walk as dry leaves crunch below one's feet. There is a certain tactile quality that can be perceived only with one’s senses. "I want to portray the crunch of Nature through the eyes to make people listen with their eyes and not their ears. I want to use pigment to paint the sound of the crunch you hear when you step on dry leaves. I want to capture the sounds of silence in Nature."
Singh gives a magic touch to colours and conjures up unexpected juxtapositions of pigments on his canvases to incarnate the moods and 'essences of Nature' that he has collected. The alchemy, however, takes place on the canvas itself. Singh applies successive layers of pigment on pigment. And, like the Impressionists (the influence of Claude Monet is obvious), he juxtaposes different colours with deft strokes to enhance the effect of light.
Singh's landscapes demand a different kind of attention from the viewers. One critic aptly described the impression of the landscapes, "Not only are we invited to see the hidden secrets of Nature but challenged to hear its signs of existence, of being: the mind's eye is called upon to hear the crackle of dry leaves and twigs underfoot or the rustle or the moan of the wind making its way through the landscape."
An excellent book has been written on the artist – 'A Walk in the Woods' by Ella Datta. This is the perfect book to delve into if one wishes to do an in-depth study on the artist.