Ayesha Singh uses architectural elements to comment on hierarchies of power

Within Contradiction, a solo presentation by Nature Morte, explores the recognisable symbols of flags and architectural columns for potent expression on socio-political disparities.

by Rahul KumarPublished on : Mar 12, 2021

For contemporary visual artist Ayesha Singh, socio-political hierarchies have remained the core of her work. Within Contradiction, an online solo presentation by Nature Morte, pursues these conversations through public and private spaces in India’s capital city, New Delhi, where Singh grew up. Through this body of work, she questions the pecking order of power and layers it with the architecture and associated histories it can embody. The works respond to current discourses around the significance of architecture as the evidence of power, authority and change. Singh uses iconic and recognisable buildings like the Parliament House and Rashtrapati Bhawan (official residence of the Indian President) in her work. Ongoing redevelopment of the Central Vista and associated widespread opposition of it adds a distinct lens to view the series. Singh has spent the last year developing the works that employ the visual vocabulary of familiar symbols like the flag to reflect on the shifts that continuously shape the nation as we know it.

I briefly speak to the artist and Vidisha Aggarwal, the curator of online show.

Flag (Warped) | Within Contradiction by Ayesha Singh| STIRworld
Flag (Warped) Image: Ayesha Singh, Courtesy of Nature Morte
Flag (Warped) – side view | Within Contradiction by Ayesha Singh| STIRworld
Flag (Warped) – side view Image: Ayesha Singh, Courtesy of Nature Morte
01 min watch Flag (Wrapped) – details | Within Contradiction by Ayesha Singh| STIRworld
Flag (Wrapped) – details Video: Ayesha Singh, Courtesy of Nature Morte

The flag, since time immemorial, has held a potent significance as a symbol of identity creation in relation to imposed demarcations, such as borders and territories. Considering its universality, Singh utilises its familiar form to imply the inherent connotations that are accessible globally. Within this framework, she addresses the nuanced manner in which architecture holds up socio-political hierarchies in reference to the politics of flags.

Flag (Wrapped) – back view | Within Contradiction by Ayesha Singh| STIRworld
Flag (Wrapped) – back view Image: Ayesha Singh, Courtesy of Nature Morte

“We often look at the flag as a symbol of nationhood, nation-making, and recognition of the self in association with a geographically marked space. When ideas about belonging have been altered, what does the flag mean to us?” says Singh.

Hybrid Amalgamation | Within Contradiction by Ayesha Singh| STIRworld
Hybrid Amalgamation Image: Ayesha Singh, Courtesy of Nature Morte

Also, artist's Hybrid Amalgamation series are graphite drawings for possible totemic structures that combine elements of a city’s architecture from various cultures, religions and times. The series, which Singh first started in 2017, previously included historical buildings as markers of our multicultural coexistences, drawn at their current state of completion, devoid of any human traces. Building on this, Singh has created a new series of drawings which present moments of reformation through the construction, restoration and destruction of architecture, and through it the lives, stories and agency of people.

01 min watch Hybrid Amalgamation (detail) | Within Contradiction by Ayesha Singh| STIRworld
Hybrid Amalgamation (detail) Video: Ayesha Singh, Courtesy of Nature Morte

The works delve into the present multiplicities and conflicting narratives that exist in simultaneity, not through the linear idea of time, but its ability to collapse and flatten into one another through graphite on paper.

Also read: Artists Ayesha Singh and Misael Soto bring Provisional Obstruction to Art Basel, Miami

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