Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Delhi

33 Link Road: Specters of Home

For this exhibition, viewers are invited to inhabit an ethereal labyrinth of transparent  architectural facades from 33 Link Road – Singh’s family home built in Delhi soon after partition, when her grandparents migrated from Pakistan to India.

Singh herself lived in several states and countries but the idea of home was continually tethered to this one address. A site of yearly gathering, story-telling, embroidering and knitting in the sun, family weddings and sleepovers, a room at the back where her mother was born and a room in the front where her grandfather died – this home, a container of potent memories, now lies unoccupied.

In place of brick and mortar, the fragile white thread weaves hard architecture into soft, spectral cob-webs of past memories. The architecture is experienced more as an apparition or a mirage, rather than solid form; white thread drawings hovering weightlessly in a white room, registering primarily through a play of light and shadow. Made to exact life-size dimensions, every nut, bolt, hinge and brick transforms into insubstantial, porous skins challenging the solidity of both – the form and the meaning of ‘home’. The language of memory finds resonance in these veil-like membranes; flattened as if preserved within the pages of book.

Belgrade Biennale/ 58th October Salon, Serbia

Hermès, The Chanakya, New Delhi

Article published in VOGUE magazine

Your first look at Hermès’ debut collaboration with an artist in India By Aditi Bhimjyani,

Artist Sumakshi Singh handcrafts Hermès’ window display. Here’s everything you need to know about it:

On October 11, 2019, the Hermès store at The Chanakya in New Delhi unveils a unique window display to a host of its patrons with an elegant cocktail evening. This is a first-ever collaboration with an artist for a window display in India. The Hermès 2019 theme, In Pursuit of Dreams, is presented with a perfect spin of whimsy by Indian artist Sumakshi Singh in her characteristic handcrafted style.

Globally, window designs are often interminably linked to a brand’s image and Hermès understands that like no other. Their windows consistently impeccable, and they’ve been inviting designers and artists to collaborate with them through the years. Perhaps the most legendary ones were from 1978 to 2013, when Tunisian artist Leïla Menchari was solely responsible for the stunning windows of the Maison Hermès flagship store on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, with her Moroccan souk themes, hammered steel Kelly bags and green crocodile Hermès clutches for undersea grottoes, all crafted to her specifications and never for sale. Another exciting window design was that of the newly renovated Hermès boutique on S Marco 1292 in Venice. Launched in 2018 with an elaborately curated ‘artist window’ by artist Luca Nichetto of Nichetto Studio, it was called Pure Imagination and inspired by Willy Wonka’s eponymous song: a treat in blown Murano glass of varying geometry, like a candy box interspersed with bags and scarves.

Singh’s installations at Hermès in New Delhi, titled Pages from a Dream Journal, are created with threadwork and lace, combining solid forms with mirages and a sort of soft, dreamy reality. The landscape is a little surreal, with floating plants and trees made with white thread and wire, illuminated with gentle flickers of light—like fireflies in a capricious narrative.

The first display, Equestrian Mettisage, is that of a wood and organza canoe gliding through serene waters, with the iconic Hermès printed scarf as sail. A glowing lace and silk bird, LED fireflies, embroidered backlit mountains and lace-and-fabric plant-forms feature as objects in suspended animation. The second display, Solar Energy, is a splash of bright—with Hermès’ fashion accessories like enamel cuffs, CDC and Clic H in orange and yellow. A swing caught in mid-air and incandescent fireflies appear in the distance. In the third display, H Story, white blossoms and a magical stairway are at the fore. The tie set tart platter plays the moon while the men’s echarpe is a billowing curtain. The gavroche and ties are like a kite taking flight. Various accessories like the Hermès tea cups, the Picotin bag, a leather cravache, Torsade sandals and the stirrup shaped Galop d’Hermès perfume bottle are littered around the designscape with an almost precise nonchalance.

Each display is conceptualised almost like a page from an ongoing story, which is both poetic and meditative. The audience (especially the passerby) is invited to imagine themselves as a character in this narrative and grab a glimpse of what Hermès is about—and, while they’re at it, discover the various Hermès objets hidden between the lines.

Singh has presented her interactive installations, paintings, drawings and sculptures at solo and curated group gallery and museum exhibitions in India, China, USA, Canada, France, Italy and Switzerland. She has also taught for five years at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and lectured at Oxford University, Columbia University and The Chicago Humanities Festival. Besides working with other museums and colleges, she has mentored residencies for the Victoria and Albert Museum and TheWhyNotPlace 2010 and 2011. Scroll ahead for a closer look at the Pages from a Dream Journal showcase at Delhi’s Hermès store.

Miscellaneous Thread Drawings

Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai, India

33 Link Road

Singh’s work often renders familiar form into insubstantial mirages, challenging its solidity and by extension the fixity of meaning and the intimacy of knowing that it symbolizes. She transforms form into illusions, perceptual hiccups or ethereal surfaces of lace and thread which appear to levitate like embroideries on air.

For this exhibition, viewers are invited to walk through a labyrinthine space of staggered, veil-like architectural facades based on specific places of emotional resonance for the artist. Made in white thread, these skeletal membranes feature life-size, embroidered architectural fragments from various homes Singh has lived in, particularly 33 Link Road – the family home built in Delhi soon after partition, when her grandparents migrated from Pakistan to India.

Singh lived in several states and countries but the idea of home was continually tethered to this one address (stated as the permanent address in all official documents until a few years ago). A site of gathering, story-telling, embroidering and knitting in the sun, family weddings and sleepovers, a room at the back where her mother was born and a room in the front where her grandfather died – this home, a container of potent memories, now lies unoccupied.

Addressing the temporal nature of both – the form and the meaning of ‘home’, the gallery transforms into an ethereal installation of transparent windows, doors, hinges, gates, staircases and brick walls, overlapping to evoke resonances, contradictions, harmonies and dissonances from certain vantage points while offering clear openings into the spaces behind from other viewing positions. Hard architectural form transforms into soft, tactile skins and the language of memory finds resonance in these veil-like, white surfaces; flattened as if preserved within the pages of book.

Wilfrid Israel Museum, Israel

In  A Blueprint of Before and After- the viewer is invited to walk through Sumakshi Singh’s  enigmatic “gardens” of memory and light. Here he/ she first encounters a ghost-like memory of the garden, walking through floating, white, skeletal forms, made of thread and lace using traditional embroidery techniques. However, while in the embroidering act the image is literally tied down to its ground (fabric), here Singh removes the base, leaving the image itself levitating and permeated with space like an embroidery on air. These baseless thread sketches are reduced to their flat, white essence creating the blueprint of a Garden – in the process of becoming or perhaps recorded as the aftermath of a garden that once existed.

In Singh’s works, material is absent and yet always present. The sketch itself – whether using thread or animation – is located at the center of the space as a tender structural foundation, as a deceptive memory of traditions and life. The viewers become integral to the work with their bodies used as imaginary platforms for the screenings and the embroidery in reflection and in space. The installation’s plants lose their internal properties. They are embroidered and unfastened, floating in the air, appearing and disappearing with a dreamlike quality.

Singh directs us to slow down and observe the tiny details often unobserved by the eye, such as the uninvited wild grass peeking through floor tiles, refusing to surrender to the human desire to manicure and control nature. She mixes the personal and local, the images and their reflections, and undermines our common perceptions and fixed notions of bracketing reality, suggesting a more flexible view, where change is the most common element.

 

C24 Gallery, New York, USA

Specter of images (in memory of the gardener) appears as an unraveled tapestry of white web-like threads which converge, diverge, knot and form into partial images of plant forms. An homage to the love of embroidery and the memory of the gardens created by the artist’s mother and a Swiss hermit (both since deceased), the disintegrating plant forms come together trying to create the semblance of a whole. The holding of fragments and the releasing of form both speak the language of memory- partially preserved, flattened and ghost-like- generating a levitating embroidery on air or perhaps they speak the language of a potential future – as the image awaits forming up and the part expresses a desire for the whole. This weightless image of future-past is a seeking of refuge in the transient image – a waiting to re-join the world of perceived form or an un-turning of the knots which created form to allow a dissolution back to the material from which it came.

India Art Fair/ FOCUS

Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum

‘Leaving the Terrestrial: Its own Kind of Archive’ is set up as a mock- natural history museum style exhibit, which displays invented and re-configured botanical and maritime specimens created with thread and wire.  This repository of ethereal armatures references memory, nature, science and fantasy as lace-like fragments levitate without a ground to attach themselves to, fragile woven-skeletons of pressed flowers, leaves and seeds float in glass vitrines, seemingly embroidered on air and unaffected by gravity.

This archive of a created past of invented creatures, leads to a second installation “In the Garden”: an homage to the experience of two particularly lush, illuminated gardens which now outlive their creators – the artist’s mother and a Swiss hermit living in the Himalayas. The story is of the gardens as a portal into a dimension of light, magic and possibility. Viewers are invited to walk through luminous hand- drawn and embroidered stop motion animations projected on transparent scrolls of fabric and suspended flowers which host the imagery of a growing, dying and resurrecting garden among flickering fireflies and hummingbirds.

Saatchi Gallery, London, UK & Art Houz, Chennai, India

This body of work related to the Garden posits 2 stories

The first is an homage to the experience of two particularly lush, illuminated, breathing, dying and resurrecting gardens which now outlive their creators– one planted by my mother and another by a Swiss Hermit in the Himalayas -truly portals into a dimension of magic and possibility. The stop-motion animations projected on transparent screens and delicate white plants (made of hand formed lace), allow the viewer to walk through a garden of light with  fireflies, illuminated plants and unraveling embroideries of nasturtiums and hummingbirds.

The second space offered is of the memory of the garden – a flattening out of experience- a cataloging, archiving and preserving of lace-like words of personal letters which levitate without a ground to attach themselves to, fragile woven-skeletons of pressed flowers, leaves and seeds, floating in glass vitrines, seemingly embroidered on air, fossil like imprints of embroideries on plaster – a repository of the subtle armatures and structures upon which experience plumps itself out.