Remembering Shiv Singh
Sculptor & Watercolour Artist (1938-2015)
My introduction to Shiv Singh’s work happened by accident. The year was 1990 and I was learning French at Alliance Francaise, Chandigarh. One evening as I headed for my class, I was told that an exhibition of watercolours of a world-renowned artist was being inaugurated at the Gallery. Some impulse made me change track and head for the Gallery instead of my classroom. As I entered the brightly lit Gallery, my senses were inundated with a barrage of vivid colours that held me riveted. It was as though nature in its most colourful Avtar had walked into the Gallery. In the middle of this colourful mele, stood the artist, a Sikh Gentleman attired completely in black. It was Shiv Singh. With some trepidation, I asked him about his work. He was affable and gracious enough to explain his palette to a raw onlooker. Time has not been able to dim the brilliance of his palette of colours. His Reflection Watercolour in vivid emeralds at The Golf Club, Chandigarh still holds me spellbound as does his Reflection Water colour in crimson and yellow at the Chandigarh Museum. For me, Shiv Singh has always been a watercolour artist par excellence.
I met him again a few years later (1994) at the Artist Workshop organised by Punjab Art Heritage at the Apeejay College of Fine Arts, Jalandhar where I was posted. My husband, an artist at heart but a bureaucrat like me, was roped in by the local Commissioner to organise the workshop. Shiv Singh was one of the artists invited for the Workshop. This time I saw the sculptor at work as he used steel strips to create a stupendous contemporary artwork which still adds a creative dimension to the brick-and-mortar building of the college. We invited the artists home for dinner and Shiv Singh was kind enough to gift me a beautiful petal done in copper. I was truly overwhelmed by his generosity of spirit and his humble nature. He had none of the arrogance one would associate with a celebrated artist. I treasure his gift which has pride of place in my house even today.
We met again in 2001 when I was posted to Chandigarh. This time we saw a different dimension of this great artist. He was an avid golfer, and we would often meet him at the Golf Club drinking a cup of tea and enjoying hot samosas after a round of golf. He became a dear friend. In February 2015, he came home for tea one evening and like a magician, delved into his bag and brought out copies of his book ‘Shiv Singh’s World of Art’, which he had been assiduously working on for the past year. The book had been lovingly put together with his artwork meticulously arranged under the heads- wood, drawing, watercolour, Erotica &Tantra, sculptures in metal and sculptures in steel. It was the story of his creative journey and his achievements with warm memories of cherished times adding a personal touch to the collection. It was almost as though he knew he did not have much time and wanted to create a permanent corpus of his work and handover his legacy to the artist fraternity and Art lovers. Soon after we lost him. But his spirit lives on in his gorgeous watercolours and aesthetically pleasing, almost lyrical sculptures.