Man Carrying Flowers
signed and dated 'ARPITA SINGH 93' (lower center)
oil on canvas
36 x 36 in. (91.5 x 91.5 cm.)
Painted in 1993
Bodhi Art, New York
Private Collection, New York
Christie's New York, 13 September 2017, lot 470
Acquired from the above by the present owner
D. Ananth, Arpita Singh, New Delhi, 2015, p. 114 (illustrated)
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Lot Essay

Arpita Singh’s figurative compositions often address challenging social and political subjects. They are a direct reflection of her life experiences as well as her thoughts and ideas on personal and political issues like female identity, displacement and violence. “She absorbs the complexities of the world and represents them in her own distinctive way through the sensuous use of paint and brush, signalling joy, wonder, menace and melancholy in an intricate kaleidoscope of human emotions.” (E. Dutta, Arpita Singh Picture Postcard 2003-2006, New Delhi, 2006, p. 1)

In the early 1990s, Singh began exploring the intricacies of female identity, particularly the poignancy of experiences of physical and emotional loss with the passage of time. The aging female body became a recurring motif in Singh’s paintings, and her imagery took on a lexicon of melancholy and nostalgia. The present lot captures a moment of convergence between the public and private worlds of the sleeping female protagonist on the left, perhaps representative of a dream she is having. Surrounded by cars and potted plants, the woman appears to be tossing and turning in her bed as a trio of suited men approach her bearing bouquets of pink flowers. Symbolic of milestones and journeys, of people who have come and gone in her life, these images along with the raw tones of the female figure’s flesh and her sagging body, reveal both the depth of experience and the vulnerability of Singh’s protagonist, expressed masterfully through thickly textured paint.

Describing Singh’s visual vocabulary as fluctuating between playful and pained, Deepak Ananth observes that in her paintings, “the poetics of free association also becomes a politics, and it is the secret tension between these registers that constitutes the enigmatic force field of Singh’s work in the last twenty years. The figure/ground gestalt becomes transposed as a chiasmus of pleasure and pain; the surface remains as delectable as ever, but the deeper structure of the paintings is keyed to motifs of desolation and death [...] Mortality stalks Singh’s pictorial world.” (D. Ananth, ‘Profound Play’, Arpita Singh, New Delhi, 2015, p. 38)
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