Profiled Artist: Kuldeep Singh

Staff Editor

Kuldeep Singh (b. India), is a multi-disciplinary artist using his intensive, decade long training in Indian dance form Odissi to deconstructs components in movement and acting, sound/percussive mnemonics and spatial arrangements as re-arranged fragments in layers.

He is the recipient of several prestigious art residencies including: the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, ME (2014), Yaddo, NY (2015) and Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, NE (2016), and has recently been artist in residence at Residency Unlimited, NY (2018) and HH Art Spaces, Goa (2018). He recently has been awarded the highly competitive New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship - 2018, in inter-disciplinary arts category.  We sat down with him to discuss all things art!

How did you become interested in becoming an artist?

I always knew it as a middle school kid, that it was either veterinary sciences or visual art that awaits me. And after completing high school as a science major, I got selected to study visual art at Delhi University’s College of Art. And then to understand visual art and Indian aesthetics further I went to study Indian classical dance form of Odissi with the critically acclaimed dancer Padmashri Madhavi Mudgal, in New Delhi.

What is you favorite medium in which to work and why?

My practice as an artist, oscillates between making large scale works in watercolor on paper and oil on linen where the subject matter is highly eclectic but filters down to an arrangement of bizarre still lines and diagrams. And simultaneously I create new movement-based works in Odissi dance - where I usually begin by making sound recordings in a particular raga in Hindustani classical music. And then further explore it over weeks or months into movement. Sometimes the sound recording is a piece of literature or poem that triggers me.

What inspires your creativity and artistic vision?

Long walks in the city, the noise and varied habits of people to the regular visits at MET museum collections in NYC – they are key triggering agents that help me continue being inquisitive. And it is this inquisitiveness that is the key factor to my eclectic inspiration - which falls under a survey socio-cultural anthropology and post-colonialism.

Growing up, did you know of other female artists?

As a high school student I was rudimentarily aware of the works of Nalini Malini, one of the leading female contemporary artists of India. Her sense of visual composition was always very mysterious to me.  Additionally, I had also seen some works of Anjolie Ela Menon. I was also an avid reader of Western art history and knew works of Mary Cassatt as a female impressionist artist from 19th century France.

Did you have an artistic mentor or someone you looked up to?

For surely my Odissi guru - Madhavi Mudgal, who constantly inspires me. Her dedication to the dance form through her constant practice and making of breath taking choreographies keep challenging me. And now me being based in NYC, I often talk to her over Whatsapp, in New Delhi. Where I share with her my evolving aesthetic takes in the dance.

What artists or trends of Indian origin are notable or impactful on our global culture? (Indian artist/photographer/poet?)

I will speak of Indian classical dance here particularly, where some of the leading women performers have etched a deep mark in the global representation from India in culture. Whether it is Malavika Sarukkai doing Bharatnatyam or Nrityagram dancers doing Odissi across the continents. I would say that ‘quality’ dance does speak volumes about our impact as a giant in cultural synthesis.

What do you think is the best way to celebrate Indian artists and their art?

Definitely by giving visibility to the artist by not just providing a well needed platform but also by honoring their craft and commitment to their form via paying them a deserved amount, and through the needed aesthetic resources. Given their life long focus to their work as a profession, just like any other profession including medicine, engineering or finance.

Any advice for young artists?

Two actually:

1. Develop a focus and be steadfast - through spending time in your form there will be a growth. And do not forget to critique yourself. 

2. Learn to differentiate between mediocrity and good work and do not be afraid to speak about it!

Of your recent creations, what is your favorite and why?

This last April, I performed an hour-long solo recital of my original Odissi choreographies for which I commissioned the music in New Delhi last year. This was performed at the historic Englert theatre in Iowa City. It comprised of 4 dance pieces and a short experimental film that I had made. As a first body of independent choreographies it is special to me. It took more than 3 years worth of ideas, planning, sound recordings and numerous studio and home practices to create a work that is now available to publicly perform, for the rest of my life. And it will keep honing further.

One of the choreographies https://vimeo.com/348042460

Where can people see your work/meet you next?

www.singhkuldeep.com is a good place to start if you need to know what all I do.

You can always shoot me an email. I am a people’s person, as much as I am an introvert when I am creating work behind the closed doors in my studio(s). I am usually available for snack/ bite at some of my favorite eclectic spots in the city.