Rajinder Singh explores the mystery of transitional spaces in black and white.
If numbers exist in a world where logic rules supreme, then surely the world of art must be the opposite.
But what happens in that place where numbers and art meet? Where shades of emotion merge with reason and rhyme, where expression dance circles around binary numbers and code?
Rajinder Singh has some answers.
The Ipoh-born artist says that his latest exhibition, titled … the ceiling floats away with a sigh …, is guided by “an internal philosophical inquiry and struggle” that has fuelled his work and research over the past four years. The show is on now at Wei-Ling Contemporary, The Gardens Mall in Kuala Lumpur.
In this body of work, he takes a closer look at transitional spaces that might be present but fleeting, perhaps a link between a concrete, physical world and the mysteries of the ever-shifting uncertainty that lies beyond. And perhaps more.
Likewise, in talking about his two loves, mathematics and art, Rajinder says, “I grapple trying to make sense of them. I explore questions of knowledge and the gap we presume to exist between these two fields.”
Although there are no numbers presented literally in these works, his mathematically-inclined queries and concerns are reflected here as a “silent muse”.
With a background in both mathematics and philosophy, Rajinder draws upon both fields – and it seems, everything in between – to produce this collection of work.
Growing up in Malaysia, he relates that his parents felt strongly that he should pursue a professional degree in the sciences.
“As a result, and despite my natural inclination towards the arts, my tertiary education was a deep dive in engineering, then maths … and I realised I took it much further than most because what essentially excited me – and still does – is the pursuit of knowledge,” he says.
As an adult, his art remains fuelled by the years he spent in mathematics and engineering. With philosophy as a companion, this “underpins and anchors the theory” of his work.
In this body of work, the 50-year-old explores visuals that are often associated with peace and serenity, presented on canvases that are half-smooth and half-rugged, transparent in parts and opaque in others.
The final output reflects his acceptance that perhaps these two “opposing worlds” can indeed be complementary and co-exist.
In this series of 11 works, he re-contextualises his research questions about space, material and knowledge, stating that he is interested in sculptures that are “perched in between form and formlessness, either leaking away or resolutely building some potential for site-specific systems of knowings.”
“This is a reflection of my personal journey and essentially acceptance that the pursuit of answers will always exist in shifting form and blurred lines. I wanted to pare down everything to bare bones to launch this phase of my work,” he says, adding that working in monochrome has allowed him to express his thoughts in a “purer” sense.
“You will see representation or like visuals to waterfalls, depths of infinity, symmetry and Chinese landscapes that are juxtaposed with bits of the outside world,” the artist says of his works. “I paint waterfalls using a blunt instrument to forcibly strip away paint. You can see the carnage this leaves behind alongside visuals subtly painted with spare use of paint in vast, spacious monochrome paintings.”
This body of work has layers upon
layers of sculpted acrylic paint applied
on large slabs of acetate, that in some
pieces, are further shaped by scoring grooves into it.
Painting on plastic is no easy task, and the biggest challenge lies in building a robust and long-lasting surface. To this end, Rajinder looks to the work processes of automobile painters who work a lot with plastic for pointers.
Aside from his time spent in Malaysia during his younger days, Rajinder was based in Singapore for several years, and now divides his time between London and Dublin, Ireland.
“I have not lived in Malaysia since my teens,” he says, reflecting that his being away from home for so long coupled with the experience of different cultures, is what makes one ask the bigger-themed questions.
“My sense of identity, whilst shaped by my formative years in Malaysia, now transcends geography or political borders. Instead, is derived from my membership in a broader class: humanity.”
His works reflect the transcending of such borders as well.
In 100 Painters of Tomorrow, a London-based initiative to “find the most exciting, up-and-coming painters at work today” between Thames & Hudson and curator Kurt Beers, Rajinder was on the shortlist of 400 artists. He was also a finalist for the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery in London in April last year.
As with the wistful-sounding exhibition title, the sky’s the limit for Rajinder and … the ceiling floats away with a sigh … reflects his “enlightening” or a “non-attachment”.
He explains, “The ‘ceiling’ represents the constraints I have placed on myself, and in releasing them, my boundaries are now unfixed and I’m free to explore.”
Rajinder Singh’s … the ceiling floats away with a sigh … will run till Aug 4 at Wei-Ling Contemporary, G212 Ground Floor, The Gardens Mall, Kuala Lumpur. The gallery is open daily from 10am to 9pm. For more information, visit weiling-gallery.com, call 03-2260 1106 or 03-2282 8323.