Chandigarh-based artist Gurjeet Singh is best known for his weird and wonderful soft sculptures inspired by conversations with friends and strangers, in real life and online. “I talk a lot with people, and often their words strike me, and a story starts forming in my head,” says the artist. “These moments charge me with a kind of ‘super-energy’,” he adds laughing. The culmination of a process of sketching and working with his materials are three dimensional works made of a myriad of richly coloured and textured fabrics that come together to form witty, other-worldly and sometimes melancholic creatures.
Singh’s first creative inspiration came from watching his elder sisters creating, embroidering and sewing in the house. He also remembers being lost in the Sikh miniatures published in the newspapers brought in by his father, wall murals and folk traditions of clay doll-making in Punjab. His deep love for the city continues to this day. “It is a very peaceful city and it is amazing to spend time here,” Singh tells us, “I see the mountains of Kasauli from my window everyday.”
“Soft sculpture is something that comes from my insides,” Singh tells us. “With this medium there are endless possibilities and endless ways to tell stories. It is like how you, even if you are bursting at the end of a meal, you make room for the delicious dish that comes to the table later. There is always something more expressive, something better to make with my sculptures.” Singh works with textiles and found materials in his home-studio, that he lays out at the beginning of each work, selecting the possible materials that would best tell the story in his mind.
“The most important thing is the form that develops as I am working,” Singh explains. Even if the idea comes from within him, the most delightful, or as he says, “mazedar”, part of the process is what he does not expect to happen. For Singh, his sculptures are not direct representations of the stories that inspire them, but results of his meditation on them: “I have the characters of the story in my mind, but the forms in my sculptures are not like you and me. They are fantasies. In my work, I try to look under the mask and convey the inner emotions and narratives behind people and their relationships. I think about the colour, the textures and shapes of their lives.”
“I have the characters of the story in my mind, but the forms in my sculptures are not like you and me. They are fantasies.”
A recurring theme in Singh’s work is identity and how our losses and love shape them, with a particular interest in LGBTQ stories. “My work is about finding oneself and revealing hidden stories,” he says. “Stories that may be a part of mainstream narratives are still hidden in parts of the country like where I am from. What I try is to learn about and show what life is like for people we may not know, and how their relationships shape their identity.”
Not just sculpture, Singh works across mediums including book forms, sound and interactive performances. In the future, he hopes to mix two and three-dimensional works with audio, to bring the stories he works with viscerally to life for his audiences.
Gurjeet Singh lives and works in his home-studio in Chandigarh. He was the recipient of the prestigious Inlaks Fine Arts Award in 2021. Download the special poster, inspired by the story of a friend of the artist.