Paramjeet Singh is a well-known Indian artist. He has taught at College of Art, Delhi. His works have been displayed at many places including India, Mexico, London, UAE, Berlin, Czechoslovakia, Dubai, Iran, Cairo, Cuba, Melbourne, and Korea. He is the President of India’s Silver Plaque at All India Fine Art and Crafts Society, New Delhi. His works were on display at “Desi Canvas” under the theme “Impressions/Expressions”. In an interview, I try to understand the person who became the famous Paramjeet Singh.
Ashish: What is the story behind you becoming an artist?
Paramjeet Singh (PS): This is when I was studying in class 8. Before that, I didn’t even know about it. There was nothing like art for me. There were some private schools where art was taught to young children. On the way to my school, there was a small art school, but I never used to go in. One of my classmates used to go there and he invited me. I went there with him one day and roamed around, watching everyone draw. I went back and asked my parents if I could join the art school. They agreed and that was the beginning. I started with basic drawing as they used to teach in schools. Then I went on trying to explore my own style. I got some awards. With Jamshedpur being an industrial city, people used to go on to follow traditional careers like engineering or something like that. Even after my schooling, my parents wanted me to go into architecture. I tried to get into some of the architecture schools but was unsuccessful. Then I told my parents that I wanted to join an art college, without really knowing about the future beyond. My parents also didn’t know about it but they agreed. I moved to Delhi and joined the college. After getting admission in the art college, my main aim was to put my maximum effort into art. I even got into a hostel for five years so that I could give maximum time to art.
Ashish: What inspires you to put your energy into art?
PS: After completing my course at the College of Art, I joined an advertising agency for two years. Then I joined the College of Art as a lecturer. After that, I thought I should explore my own style. I used to have discussions with Mr Jagmohan Chopra. He suggested that I should explore silk screens as there was no one doing silk screen printing. The second reason was that I wanted to be independent for any kind of medium. I knew that other mediums needed special workshops while for silk screen printing there wasn’t any such requirement, and I decided to go for it. In the beginning, it was difficult to find raw materials as I was not aware of it. But slowly, I got to know the Delhi market. And I got all the materials from one shop, and that was the beginning of my silk screen experiments. I did all kinds of experiments with it. In the beginning, there were a few experiments where I could control all the materials of the silk screen. This was the time when I started getting recognition. I have continued to work on silk screen for more than 30 years, got recognition nationally and internationally, and won awards too. During this period, I used to paint as well. I eventually discontinued the silk screen and shifted to painting. It was around the year 2000. My medium of painting was oil colours and acrylics.
Ashish: How have you evolved as an artist? How would you describe your journey so far?
PS: I am used to participating in different exhibitions and solo shows in Delhi and Bombay. My life was straight without many ups and downs. My hard work and continuity gave me recognition as a printmaker and painter.
Ashish: As an artist, what do you think needs to be done in order to reach out to more people?
PS: To reach out to more people, the best way is to have solo shows in different places, different areas, so that one can interact with artists. In the beginning even getting a catalogue done was difficult but print media has helped. Print media is also very important. People should have access to it all and now electronic media has also arrived. E-galleries and E-auctions are also good mediums to reach out to the public.
Ashish: What differences do you find in the audience of India and abroad?
PS: What I feel is that India lacks basic education of art. Even now, there are many schools where art is not taught and I feel that if it becomes an important subject, and children get the exposure, then people will have a better understanding. Outside India, people are aware of things. They go to exhibitions and galleries and they remain updated about the art world.
Ashish: Is art limited to some classes in India? If so, what are the reasons behind it?
PS: In India, art certainly is limited to some classes and communities – artists, galleries, and a few buyers. Maybe the gallery people and sometimes the artists, who gain recognition, increase the prices of the paintings or they go only to the art galleries and that limits the audience. Art activities brought to the public through exhibitions and art fairs, which are easily accessible to the public, can help expand art’s consciousness.
Ashish: How do you see the economics of art in India?
PS: I think it is a very personal thing, which means the artist should be the one to decide it, not others. Established artists have got a little better, economic condition-wise, whereas, for the younger ones, there is a hard struggle ahead. Few are lucky, who get recognition and a good market early. The economics of art also depends on the financial condition of the country because, in a recession, art is hit first and vice-versa.