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2018

The Irish Times Wed 21st Feb, "

Human bodies taken over by anxiety"

by Aidan Dunne

.........
"Rajinder Singh nods to the intangible with his ethereal images in A Choreography of Worship (shaded of Francesca Woodman), and to harsh materiality with his tiny, figurative clay sculptures, Tumours...."





2018

The Sunday Times Cuture Magazine, Feb 11th 2018.

"Putting Pain in Perspective" 
by Cristin Leach

"......Rajinder Singh, the only male artist in the group, shows black-and-white photographs in which the female body is entrapped, beleaguered, compromised by compresses, props and splints, and Tumour, a crowd of hand-formed clay figurines, one of which is a rendition of the 25,000 year-old Venus of Willendorf, an archaeological art find and one of the world's oldest images of woman.


Bliss is from New York, Beech is British, Bullo is Irish-Italian based in Dublin and Malaysian-born Singh is London based. They offer varied perspectives on pain, a universal hman theme....."





2018

RTE, Ireland Mon 22nd Jan

"In The Picture: The Body + The Institution at Galway Arts Centre"

"Ex-Voto: The Body + The Institution is a group exhibition at Galway Arts Centre that addresses the colonisation of the human body, the treatment of the body by state, corporate, medical and pharmaceutical institutions, and the subjective experiences of health and illness in the context of these institutions.

The relationship between Institution and the individual, the role of power and the impact of capitalism and commerce are investigated in works by five contemporary visual artists and a writer: Lucy Beech, Jenna Bliss, Cecilia Bullo, Judy Foley, Rajinder Singh and Sinéad Gleeson."





2018


Rajinder Singh (b. 1964, Ipoh, Malaysia) is an artist and researcher who holds an enduring interest in South Asian magico-religious belief systems and the shape and space that they deny us. His practice is dedicated to the vulnerability of the body and its pain, hidden behind the gestures and movements of worship and the grace of dance. Through his multifaceted practice Rajinder explores the variety of ways the human body unfolds at the intersections of the world of the otherworldly and the dynamics of global modernity.


Rajinder graduated with a PhD in Engineering (UK) in 1993 and a Master's in Fine Arts (Singapore) in 2010. His recent performances and exhibitions include WoundBloom (performance) Wei Ling Gallery, Kuala Lumpur (2017); Cage of Deliverance, Wei Ling Gallery, Kuala Lumpur ( 2016); Common Ground, Chan Hampe Gallery, Singapore (2015); The ceiling floats away with a sigh, Wei Ling gallery (2014); Muestra Colectiva de Verano, Isabel Anchorena Gallery, Buenos Aires (2014); Fold, ICA, Singapore (2012); MOLC, Chan Hampe Gallery (2012); Ya-ad, ICA, Singapore (2011); Ellaline, Stephanie Hoppen Gallery, London (2011).


2017

The idea of the wound in its many different forms, physical, mental and metaphorical is a recurrent motif in much of Rajinder's work. Rajinder sees the  wound as a failure of language, when the wound itself becomes language, articulating secrets in the presence of pain through the testimony of cut and ripped skin. Rajinder's wounds speak impossibly not only of a trauma in the past but reanimates  the boundary between existence and non existence to reveal conditions of possibility that exceed the limits of the suffering flesh and gives us a glimpse of that blurry unity, the great throbbing consciousness beyond. These aspects of language and the wound are embodied especially in Rajinder's assembled gods that are at once  scarred fragmented deities and healing, embracing unities.


For his most recent exhibition 'Cage of Deliverance', Rajinder returns to his distant past, to a life in Malaysia and to thaipusam, an annual  pageantry of human spirit triumphant over flesh. He constructs spacious cages in his paintings, free to roam about in, their oceanesque tranquility oblivious to the trauma transcribed onto their very walls. This terrorising calligraphy,  unseen yet obvious,  forms a salient component in Rajinder's 'simulation cages', strapped onto life's limbs, lancing together an algorithmic representation of the self. And this recalibration of self is  Rajinder's final rite and preparation as pierces together his fragmentary song and ceremony of farewell.  Haunted by a fragmentary, disintegrating body, Rajinder surrenders to the culturally authentic, to find  unification in disunity or even to move beyond these paradigms to tranquility and peace.




2016


Mortification of the flesh is a religious practice that is difficult to forget once seen. In Rajinder Singh’s case, it is the bearing of kavadi by devotees who worship the Hindu God of war, and the cheek & skin piercings commonly associated with this ritual. The artist expands his horizon to include many other cultural icons which represent deliverance, or the human need for atonement from shame. At the deep end of the gallery, a sequence of straight lines cut into five fingers is projected, disarming the visitor who had just walked past gilded poles and an assortment of Chinese plates & bowls laid out on the ground. Rajinder says that these objects are part of a performance to re-enact a wake, which is documented on a screen nearby.


Wall hangings fall into three categories – square mandala-like paintings with figurative poses embedded, triptychs that both construct and deconstruct cultural designs, and large depictions of icons amalgamated from various cultures the artist is familiar with. The latter works are impressive and dominate a large corridor space. Rajinder appropriates the spatial memory of encountering such icons, instead of just depicting the subject’s form, the larger-than-life works imposing an authority akin to a magnificent marble statue seen within a Roman Catholic church. Disparate parts are fun to make out, but inconsequential to the overall interpretation – peacock feathers headdress, Chinese warrior vest and blade, stumpy yet elegant legs from Indian statues, angel wings, Balinese dance costume, Greek arms and silver halos…


With titles like ‘Penance’ and ‘Reparation’, the theme of ‘Forgiveness’ is reinforced via repeated depictions of the vel, a divine javelin that is represented by the skewer in ritual practice. Most spear tips are embellished with gold leaf by the artist; multiple layers on the canvas demands a closer look. According to the artist, sand was laid over gesso to create a fine textured surface. Images of body parts are subsequently silkscreened, then oil paint and glittery metal sheets are applied, and powder is used in some cases. The end effect is slightly superficial but undeniably gorgeous, as vague memories of cultural rituals are re-constructed into a single figurative representation. That the bindi – a red dot on the centre of one’s forehead, worn by Hindu women – functions only as decorative element in these paintings, is the whole point.


Balancing out these imposing works are the triptychs, typically composed of close-ups, plan views, and amalgamated structures constructed from pictures of religious sites. The architectural perspective of space provides a complementing dimension to the central theme of deliverance, as such motifs appropriate the spiritual experience attached to these forms by its initial creators. In ‘Three Studies on Immortality’, scratchy cloud patterns seen in Chinese temples are flanked by a Greek/Indian double image, and three towers that recall ringing medieval bells. Encounter with these icons belong to memories of different time and space, yet these visual cues refer to a singular element, that of a historical reverence for human salvation. When a church, temple, and mosque, is conflated to a single ghostly design, the spiritual aura does not diminish, even enhanced on further gazing.


Relative to other exhibits, the square mandala-like paintings denote the most simplistic aesthetic form of divinity, in its geometry and re-presentation of puja poses. Vel skewers become guide lines dividing each picture into quadrants, curiously negating a radial effect which potentially better fit this show. With its attention to detail, personal interpretations of accumulated experience, literally varied perspectives, and all through tinted lenses, Rajinder’s works propose an approach similar to its subject matter. To deliver oneself from one’s acknowledged frailties, a firm dedication to form and (aesthetic) purity is required for transforming one’s self. Cultivate attachment to attain detachment. However ostensible it may be, the end result is magnificent, as we know it.


Art KL-itique

_________



Rajinder Singh’s practice deals with far ranging subject matters from the esoteric, to the sublime, the
mathematical the philosophical and the spiritual. For the exhibition, Rajinder has produced a diptych
silk-screen painting which deals with memories that have been formed though collective experience,
shared consciousness and collective action. He is interested in the way memory from these
collective rituals from the past give us support to weather the transitions and traumas of the present.
For Rajinder, memory is not merely a recording of something but as a concept, like Walter Benjamin
who saw recollection as representing an open door to another image on the memories canvas. Thus,
for Rajinder memory is more about interactions and how that has helped shaped his perceptions and
reality.

In the work, Rajinder has created a collage of temples from around the world. Through bringing photographs of over 20 different places of prayer, he has created two similar but not identical images. Sepulchral and almost skull-like or talismanic in form, the images appear as a kind of memento-mori. Through deploying the silk-screen process, no two prints are absolutely identical.
The differences between the images point to imperfections in our memory, where no recollection is
identical. The intermeshing of the different temples suggests a merging of all the rituals, people and
memories. They echo the inter-linking of memories as the rhizomes posited by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, allowing for multiple, non-hierarchical entry and exit points. The rhizome has no beginning or end, it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo, past yet present.

Gowri Balasegaran



2010
Seeing What We (Do Not) Know, Or, The Need To Think Impossible Thoughts

Lawrence Chin


"The supplement adds to itself, it is a surplus, a plentitude enriching another plentitude, the fullest measure of presence. It cumulates and accumulates presence."
-- Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology


Approaching one of Rajinder Singh's latest series of paintings, Cause and Defects, one would probably be hard-pressed not to be overwhelmed, literally by the painting's size, as well as a sense of immediate visual disruption, made concrete by lines left unpainted on the primed canvas.  One is not quite sure how exactly the painting is made or is it indeed painted, or, whether it is meant for some purpose other than being hung in a gallery or a wall. There is a delayed recognition of the subject of the painting – or are they portraits?  And one can never be sure, even if these faces looked somewhat familiar.

One would likely experience an increasing sense of visual and cognitive estrangement as one continues to linger in front of each work, not really knowing how to see, perhaps – as the more one sees, the less one seems to know.  These divergent experiences are disturbing in the normal consideration of paintings, yet they are essential to an understanding of Rajinder Singh's approach to his art-making – by way of a constant and relentless search for visual ideas which resonates with his deeper philosophical drives and convictions.


Distracting Tropes

Life is often imagined to be lived with a sense of purpose or engagement, which generally seeks to make meaningful one's disparate experiences.  To merely have lived in a haphazard manner seems a waste of human potential, even if marginally tolerable.  These private expectations of purpose can often be projected onto external entities that we become enthralled with in some significant aspect that resonate with our personal belief – or is "ideology" now considered to be an outmoded reference point?  We follow and respond to ideas that we take as a stand-in for what we could be; should be.  One's life seems complete by acknowledging such external or additional supplements to one's own convictions – or the living of one's life by the gathering (and claiming) of fragments.

In the pursuit of life, does one then become more engrossed in fashioning it – hence, giving it coherence and purpose – rather than to live it – and run the risk and dead certainty of trivializing it?  The choice of prominent personalities and intellectuals being given prominence in Rajinder Singh's latest series seem to perform a double-bind on the viewer.  On the one hand, one gravitates to certain approaches as espoused by great thinkers and doers.  On the other, one is reminded of one's own gross inadequacy and lack of accomplishment in comparison.  Does our admiration, simplistic though it may seem, give away the game of living, in that we have always strive to live by way of postponing what we can achieve or do?

*   *   *

The optical treatment of the series of images presented by Rajinder Singh points to an intervention that belies its simplicity of execution.  Unassumingly disruptive, the choice of working with lines that incorporate breaks, gaps, inconsistencies and stains into the composition has managed to activate a duality in the act of seeing.

One is confronted with visual distractions that prevent a complete single instant reading of the presented image.  In response, one strives to re-double one's effort in re-reading and reviewing the image, almost liken to depositing layers of meaning, as one tries to construct (or guess at) a more coherent image than what is being initially afforded.  The more one sees, the more one appears to know.  But this delayed or deferred state of knowing points to an awareness of the uncertainty or instablility in the foundation of one's knowledge – one that is primarily accumulated through a sedimentation of incomplete fragments: How can we even be sure of what we know, then?


Lingering Impossibilities

A suspended state between knowing and not-knowing is one that challenges our common understanding of the world around us.  It is predicated upon the very processes and mechanisms of acquiring knowledge but stops short.  This stopping short is not one of irrationality or incomprehensibility but points to the limit of knowledge itself – a limit which is experienced both as necessary (in making sense) yet inadequate (in explaining completely).

In bringing the viewer to such a suspended and ambiguous state, Rajinder Singh is keen to question the very basis of our knowing – the beliefs that we mistook for certainties; the fragmentary ideas that we misrecognised as ideals.  Not that there are any definite certainties or ideals that exists independent of our discursive practices, but that in order to even communicate (or think) about life, one must suspend such uncertainties and imagine a temporary order.  It is to speak; think; understand; see; or know, provisionally.

*   *   *

Looking at the titles given to the individual paintings in Rajinder Singh's latest series, one is led to discern an attempt at order, or rather, an attempt at approaching order.  The designation of unassuming numbers hint at some underlying logic but which is presently not made apparent.  The lack of complete knowledge, in this case, does little to impede a sense of meaning, or its construction, almost suggesting that meaning and knowledge are mutually unencumbered.  It points to how labels – or more generally, of words, language and discourse – can often index meaning without needing to carry an accompanying intention.  What we meant to know is all there is to know.  It is, as if, knowledge is already (self-)contained in language, however limited or limiting.


(In)adequate Absence

The limit of knowledge could be understood as being entwined with the limit of language.  "What one cannot say, one cannot possibly know", to somewhat shamelessly misquote Wittgenstein. The very limit of language determines the limit of knowledge.  Or does it?  In the case of Rajinder Singh's Cause and Defects, one gets a sense of meaning, not through a singular instant of articulation or recognition but via a laboured sequence of layering and de-layering of what is unspoken: both on the part of the viewer, as well as through the practice of the artist in the actual making of these paintings.  It is a reflection of the unspoken, or more accurately the unspeakable, complexities of life and, possibly, of its limit.

Yet in thinking about the very limit of life – or, death, which can be considered as an impossible experience in that one would not be able to live to tell of the full experience of death – one can arguably approach it in an oblique manner that imagines a sense of what might be experienced at such a limit.  But such an approach would still fall short of full knowledge, never able to fully apprehend the total absence that is beyond words. Such an absence must in turn be momentarily grasped, however tenuously or inadequately, in order to understand and live one's life.

It is such a sense of purposeful inadequacy that Rajinder Singh's most recent suite of works attempt to evoke.  Not in a direct or didactic manner, but through the myriad forms of engagement with the paintings.  The multi-layered optical distractions employed in the paintings point to the inherent relationships between the portrayed subjects' lives and their own inevitable lived distractions, with the ultimate distraction being that of an approaching and definite death.  These overlapping concerns echo the intuited yet mutually reinforcing distractions of meaning-making and knowledge (or seeing) – which in turn brings into play a resolute return to our understanding as temporary, temporal and necessarily distracted.

*   *   *

As with death, life must also be approached obliquely, in order for a layered multiplicity of meanings to occur. This multiplicity could then fuel an openness that brings to awareness of breaks, gaps, lacunae and other general distractions of this imperfect world, which must be taken as nothing less than meaningful.  Perhaps, herein lies the unspoken, or unspeaking, presence in Rajinder Singh's latest addition to his oeuvre: we see and we must know, even if imperfectly or impossibly.


"Given that a trace is never present, then what does being-present, or the presence of present mean?"
-- Jacques Derrida, " A 'Madness' Must Watch Over Thinking" in Points ... Interviews, 1974-1994




Lawrence Chin teaches part-time at the LASALLE College of the Arts in the Fine Arts Faculty and School of Integrated Studies.  In his other full-time work, he conserves and restores easel paintings while writing on an occasional basis.







2008
Painting by Numbers by Dr Ken Fernstein

What is a digital image? If it is an image created by the manipulation of digits by a program, then Rajinder Singh’s portraits are digital art. The fact that he doesn't use a computer is irrelevant. An issue for those who need to protect their fiefdom’s. What is happening  is a very complex and dense use of numbers and mathematics. How do we use numbers? What does it say? What can it say? What can’t it say?

The theorist Vilem Flusser has written about how the text as image came to a crisis point in the early 20th century.1 The crisis  came about when the written word became incomprehensible. To make his point, he doesn't go to Joyce or the Surrealists, but to Einstein. E=mc2, a simple statement that means more than it can contain. How do we understand this? Go back to visual images. Images based on concepts, mathematics and technology. What Flusser calls the “technical image”. An not an image of technique, but an image of technology. Singh’s images are images of both technique and technology. They pile numbers upon numbers, until images appear. The text passes through its own crisis of meaning, coming through the other side as pure image. A face, the face of a woman springs out of the numbers. the theoretical comes back to the human. How he got there remains unreadable, but we don’t care. We have arrived with him to a gaze that looks back at us as much as we look at it.

This gaze is made of numbers literally piled on top of each other. Mapping the face as we do a mountain. Singh asked where can we find the emotion in numbers. This is where it is, in the peaks and valleys of the face. The building up of layers of colour tagged to different number sets. These numbers sets could be stock quotes, flight schedules, scores from the Premier League, the seemly disconnected events, which make up our life. And we turn to the face to see the culmination of our life. We “read” a face for this. The cliche goes that the eyes are the windows of the soul, but the face is the map of experience.

Singh began this collection of faces by asking where is the “lovely” in mathematics. Einstein defined the best scientific and mathematical solutions as the simplest and most elegant. The most elegant is an aesthetic judgement. Here is the art in math. We understand, no we expect the aesthetic judgement in art. The aesthetic helps us define the form of the language of art. Like the rules for the construction of a sentence. Math being among other things the language of science. Yet Einstein is defining the scientific by the artistic. Wittgenstein proved that something can not be defined as a subset of itself. So we have to go elsewhere to define what makes the scientific. The amateur violinist Einstein knows that we have to go to an older system to legitimate the scientific system. If the aesthetic can be used to define science and math is its language than the lovely can be found there. Humming through with Pythagoras'  celestial harmonies. We should never forget that math and music are tied so tightly together that it can be hard to untangle them.

The lovely is not found in the numbers themselves, but in how the numbers are used. The place where the digits are used to create meaning. Many philosophers have agreed that meaning is created by the relationship, the give and take of the conversation. This conversation can be between people or a work of art and a viewer, a book and a reader or even a mathematician and an algorithm.  The relational is the core of the artistic experience. It is a conversation each side enters into. Jean-Franзios Lyotard  sees this as part of game theory2. Emmanuel Levinas finds G-d there3. Here we are back to the gaze. The work looks at us knowing that we are looking at it. It is a gaze looking for its return. The return is the play of the game. We set the rules and we engage. It is Lyotard’s conversation. It is the relational. An inclusive act. An ethical act. An act which as draws on in to respond, to finish the conversation. Because with out the other of the viewer, it is just a monologue going out to nowhere. The work calls, we respond. It asks, we answer. We may ask of the work and demand an answer back, but we can not do this with out answering first.

Play, playfulness, things we forget to think about with art any more. As statements like this one are written and as theorists become critics, works are discussed very solemnly. Maybe too solemnly. Singh’s paintings are combining two things that are playful in nature - algorithms and painting. Algorithms are an important element in game theory. Game theory drives much of the mathematics being developed today. It is used in creating the probabilities used for forecasting the weather, quantum mechanics and managing hedge funds. But at its heart is the concept of play. Flusser talks about play in relation to the use of an apparatus, such as a computer.4 We experiment when we play. We try it one way and then try it another until we like what we get. This is the way we live in our digital world. Every day as we use our computers more and  we are playing more and more. It has become the nature of how we work. It is the nature of how we create work. It is some thing we have learned from art. It is how we can strive to find the lovely in numbers, art or life. Here is where Rajinder Singh finds his worlds coming together.


1     Flusser, Vilйm. Towards a Philosophy of Photography, Reaktion Books, London, 2000.
2     Thebaud, Jean-Loup and Jean-Franзois Lyotard. Just Gaming, University of Minnesota      Press, 1985
3     Levinas, Emanuel. Entre Nous: Thinking-of-the-Other, Continuum Internationa Publishing   Group, 2006.
4     Flusser, Vilйm. Towards a Philosophy of Photography, Reaktion Books, London, 2000.








2006
Deciphering the code.

By Carmen Nge

Abstract expressionist paintings are notoriously difficult to decipher. Redolent with idiosyncratic references and cryptic symbolism, abstract art is rich fodder for the palette of a psychoanalyst because artists presumably unleash their suppressed unconscious when they create.

To the lay person, mathematical equations, perhaps, are not very different. Without prior knowledge and years of education, they too are impossibly enigmatic; their signs and symbols intimate a consciousness invisible to the ignorant.

As both artist and mathematician, Rajinder Singh attempts to fuse and infuse the two disciplines with remarkable results.

The drip art effect in Rajinder’s paintings is reminiscent of Jackson Pollock’s abstract masterpieces; physics professor, Richard Taylor, observes that Pollock’s drip patterns resemble fractals, the repetition of patterns (particularly those found in nature) at finer scales. The mathematical component is not always evident in Rajinder’s work but they are there, insinuated in titles such as Entanglement, Noble Polyhedra, Differential, Dimensions, to name a few. The vibrancy in his art, however, cannot be reduced to their mathematical derivations.

Recurring motifs in his paintings offer clues as to the artist’s preoccupations. Airplanes, air balloons and parachutes are highly visible in Rajinder’s work. The suggestion of mobility, flight and travel is, in all likelihood, synonymous with the artist’s itinerant life in the past few decades. Yet, the personal signification does not disavow a more contemporaneous, political reading.

Post-9/11, it is impossible to see airplanes and tall structures and not think of the World Trade Center; the blood red hues in Entanglement suggest the intensity of that historical moment and the lives lost. At the same time, the skeleton-like towers look curiously like oil rig structures; the black bags attached at their base suggest the ‘black gold’ in Iraq, so sought after by the Americans. Rule No. 2 lends credence to this interpretation, further cementing the connection between cars/trucks/vehicles and the petrol needed to power them.

In contrast to the global undercurrents in the previous two works, New Possibilities clearly references Singapore. The Esplanade’s ‘durian dome’ is unmistakable; the winding roads and intersecting lines are the meticulously planned transportation system of the island nation. Although not the most visually spectacular, New Possibilities nevertheless contains the most clearly marked reference points.

Murder Math, in contrast, is an arresting painting. The solid black swatches draw our attention to the contrasting white outline of adjoining houses and an intricate, ominously black-inked, blueprint of the interior. Is this the site of a past murder? Or could it be the plans for a potential one? Mathematics, in this instance, becomes a viable tool used in the interests of crime. Indeed, equations are never merely harmless numbers and innocuous signs.

Mathematical equations can also be sources of fun, as evident in Roller Coaster Dimensions, Candy Floss, and Dreamland. Circles and lines dominate in this set of paintings; Ferris wheels come to mind. The colours are bright pastels—pinks, blues, oranges, and greens—but they have a washed out, tired quality about them. Like a postmodern theme park, these paintings capture both the energy and aftermath of manmade fun. The riot of intermingling colours is its zenith and the drippy effect its nadir.

In this new exhibition, a distinct shift has occurred in Rajinder’s work. If before his lines were clean and his colours gloriously cheerful, now lines are both bold and faint; the colours are darker, muted, and seep into one another. The signs and symbols inscribe a complexity and an abstrusity that is heightened by the artist’s new landscape of abstraction. Yet, despite their esoteric nature, Rajinder’s paintings evince a visual maturity that compels and captivates.


Carmen Nge is a regular contributor to Off The Edge magazine, principally writing about visual arts and reviewing books. She obtained her doctorate in film and postcolonial literature from Brandeis University in the U.S. Carmen is also a full-time lecturer at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman.