Mohit Kant interviews Gagan Singh about his practice, contribution to the field of drawing and the importance of site and context in his work.
Mohit Kant:In your recent group show ‘Days without night’ (13, Barakhambha Road New Delhi, 2018)you shared the process of creating drawings i.e. ‘Give me my tongue’ (2018) and ‘Go through all the boxes’ (2018). I was wondering if there were any preparatory sketches for these drawing?
Gagan Singh:No, the nature of creating them is that you draw live, so it’s what I am thinking in that moment only. Both the animations are a way to make animations without using any interface such as software, where we put the images and edit the video. So, the process of working like this is non-editable. Whatever happens in that moment becomes the animation or the video. I am not showing the process, but it is actually a movie. Which for some strange reason is showing the process, or it looks like that.
MK: So, there is a process which you abstractly know, even then, each drawing you make is a discovery. Is there also an awareness of what are you going to address with the drawing or it may turn or twist or completely replaced by something other than what you started with?
GS: Yes, it is unpredictable. You start with something and then the storyline might come to you. And these are all posted online on Instagram, which gives me 60 seconds so I have to finish the story within that time frame. I just organise myself in that time-frame and say what I wish to say. I could have a beginning thought but after that I just let everything happen on its own, and if I feel the particular animation gave me something new, then I upload it, otherwise I delete it. I get upset if it is repetitive and does not give me something new. I get angry sometimes and want to flush the mobile phone down the toilet.
MK:I like the size of your works. People generally have to find these works and at times they just encounter the drawing and are surprised by the sight of it. Do you also design the route of the viewer while placing your work?
GS:No, I don’t design. I let the site lead me to it. I also don’t create any reason that people should go and find them. Incidentally, since I work on a small scale, and if I draw against a big space, then you end up finding it only. And I end up zooming into things, so I could perceive minutely in a large space, so I guess I see and notice tiny close up things in larger space. I guess it’s a way to play with perception. Maybe this way people tend to not only find my works but also start to think that or notice other things which maybe my works or this way they start to notice into tiny details, i.e. surfaces around them.
MK:I really liked the concept of ‘Drawing Conversation’. I got my chance to be the part of one of these. How did you find out something like this can be done?
GS: Drawing conversation was through feeling the need that I should not be drawing all the time in my sketchbook and it would be nice to have someone else draw and I could respond to it or the other way around. Drawing conversation is also about pushing the thinking of what is a drawing? And what happens if two or more people are having a conversation? Who will draw what or write something or how the people’s drawings will negotiate what should be drawn. Maybe this is a way to ideate, to think together, or to create new works in collaboration.
MK:About your work ‘Drawing Conversations #exstrange’ (2016)1in which you used ‘eBay’ as platform to engage with viewers. Can you tell us about it?
GS: It’s along similar lines to Drawing Conversation. In that you can bid for a drawing from me, which I will create, only after you provoke me with a word, or something to which I may or may not respond with a drawing. And if I do so, then, I will share the same as an email attachment but not as a physical work. The project was about responding to the commerce site – EBAY and how I could play around with an artistic project but using the EBAY site as a platform.
MK:Something I wanted to ask you, which I asked in one of my earlier interviews about drawing style; how did you came to draw, the way you draw, did it come on its own or you choose to draw like that?
GS:I think it evolved over a period of time, or sometimes I feel it’s been like this forever. To think further on this, it’s been more or less a way of writing in a diary for me. As far as I remember, writing out one’s feelings or immediately using the pen and paper to write a letter or draw something is how I started and for some reason I have always liked black and white and the un-erasable pen lines. Just to be able to make a black line on a non-black surface, white paper is really interesting as you play with empty space equally. So, it’s not just what is drawn but the environment created on the space where there is no black line. If you notice in other drawings and videos, l prefer to work in strokes, so this way I like to think and draw, to take my time in doing the drawing, and this way I can go in any direction.
MK:I would also like you to tell us about your experience of displaying any one work at two different venues and the responses of audience to it. How did it differ, or did it differ at all?
GS:I cannot recall as such because as far as I remember, the last two three years, the work has been drawing on site only. I have not displayed the same works in two venues.
MK: Does an experience from one place facilitate the display of another work (at another venue)?
GS: It carries on. It definitely carries something forward. As you build up something in your memory, because of the site, the new site gives you a new setting but something of the old is already there as an experience. Like in the case of 13, Barakhambha Road (New Delhi), I feel I could have more than one animation for the similar story and in this case, it is the same narrative being said, so what if this expands to 30 iPads from just 1. What happens to the narrative and to the site, or we reduce or expand the size of the viewing or work with sound. So, these could carry forward in the next site. Also, I feel now that there could be division of the animation, so parts of it can be extracted out and multiplied in the physical space.
MK: What are you working on nowadays?
GS: At the moment I am working on course content for the Indian education system in regards to drawing and thinking. It’s an ongoing film which I started during my time in Navi Mumbai during the summer this year. As Navi Mumbai allowed me a restful time to reflect upon what I had been doing in the past ten years and what could be a new contribution to the field of drawing. I have been documenting the cities movement and how visible, invisible drawing is occurring at all times.
Mohit Kant is a multidisciplinary artist and writer based in New Delhi. Kant makes drawings, sculptures, installations, photographs, performances, etc. He also makes literary works such as; poetry, scripts, and graphic narratives etc. Through his works he talks about the subjects like human desire, psychological phenomena, and distant futures.
Gagan Singh (Born in 1975) is a Delhi based artist works with drawings. Singh has received his MA in Fine Arts from Kent Institute of Art and Design, Canterbury, Kent. In his practice Singh tries to explore the other ways of interactions. Sometimes it about understanding the alternative or other meanings of certain words or phrases. While working, Singh is also very much aware of the site, where the work is being produced/displayed at. A sense of ease, while looking at his works connects the viewer to his work immensely. There is always some text lingering around the draw which may add and take the viewer to ohter dimensions. Singh is one of the artist from the group show ‘Days with night’((13, Barakhambha Road New Delhi, 2018) curated by Kanika Kuthiala and Leonhard Emmerling, Goethe-Institut, New Delhi. In the Show Singh has shared his process of working on a drawing.
Kant likes to engage in conversations with creative individuals. This has led him to write a series of interviews of artists, curators, writers and researchers.