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A Modern Contemplator – Interview with Indian Artist Gagandeep Singh

Posted on : 05/10/2017 09:37am
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The drawings of Gagandeep Singh may look spontaneous, but they are a condensed accumulation of his past encounters and relationships, as well as his contemplations and annotations on life. As one of the participating artists of Shanghai Biennale 2016, he used pencils, pens and markers to leave surreptitious notes on the walls of the Power Station of Art, as a response to his navigation of the alien city and the various artworks.

Gagandeep, from the Indian city of Delhi, is expanding his horizons by constantly asking both himself and the world new questions.


You mentioned earlier that you do not make a draft, but instead draw from your head and everything that inspires you. Is that how you work, visually?


Yes. I think for the past couple of years it has always been to visit the new site, the location etc. When you are in that space, it can generate new ideas for you. Certain things stick in your mind that you would not normally notice. I was having a conversation with Monica (a member of RAQS and curator of Shanghai Biennale) yesterday about ‘Why not ask a question again?’ My artworks explore the area between having a question to ask myself and creating a question for the viewers who see the work. I made one mark on the second level, which is about creating a question. That’s what I am doing with my works right now.


When you say ‘the site’, do you mean the architectural space of the exhibition or the city? 


It is the physical space, the architectural space, and also the city. For example, I walked from the hotel just now and it took me one hour to get here. This is my first visit to Shanghai and my first visit to China. Going that way, I saw some things on the way, definitely not just the Power Station of Art. The site can be much larger than that, however. It could be from the moment I leave home to coming here, and everything in between.


In my case, nothing is planned; I come with a very blank space. Anything that I did in India or anywhere else, is not applicable here. When I come here, it is not like a video that you turn on, nor an installation you can just create. If I am just completely blank, then I have to think. So the anxiety of having to get inspired is definitely there.


There are certain subjects that you use, particular issues that you deal with, like immigration and religion, which you have been working with a lot in your previous work. It might be less obvious in China. For this project in the Biennale, are you using all of these subject matters in your work or are you expanding?


I use myself as a character, who has come to Shanghai, so what will he do? That’s where I find myself right now. Just noticing things. I find people driving scooters with very red gloves on. I find it a little bit funny because it’s cold here, so I visualise myself having something like the gloves, and then visualise myself wearing a complete blanket. But it is very difficult to drive if you have too much on. I also noticed a broom made of leaves, as well. I liked that.


I was walking the other day and I saw some people around the corner sitting on chairs who had three or four birds on a stick. They would throw the food and a bird would catch it and come back, like a pet. It was happening in an open public space, but I didn’t take a photo. I had no idea what they were doing. It will not necessarily appear in my work, but it triggered something, and I thought, ‘What is happening?’


One last question, the exhibition title is, ‘Why not ask again? Arguments, counter arguments and stories’, how would you interpret the title? It is a very open question and also a play on words, as if something has happened before. 


I see it in multiple ways. It is connected with one of my last projects that I did recently in Delhi. I feel like I am exploring an aspect of questioning and creating an absurd equation, where this is equal to this. But in reality, the equation doesn’t work because it is absurd. It is just not right. It is never going to give you an answer, but I ask it just for the sake of questioning, for the sake of creating an equation. I think it’s fun to do that. That was one aspect of it, and the other was creating works that pose a question or ask a question of me. Yesterday, I was thinking, is the water hydrant out of water? Then, it was asking me, can you put in some water before the next fire starts, and I was asking it, “How can you be thirsty when you are the one with all the water?” I was not really looking for an answer, I’m just asking a question and imagining the situation.


Thank you so much.

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