Life & Style

Sculptor Shiv Singh: An artist of style and synergy

June 28, 2015 04:33 AM
Sculptor Shiv Singh

Adieu Sculpture Shiv Singh

By Nirupama Dutt

It is difficult to imagine Chandigarh without Shiv Singh (1938- 2015), the master artist, robed in black with the orange ‘fifty’ edging the turban or a bright scarf offsetting his dramatic style statement.

A sculptor, painter, teacher, golfer and socialite, Shiv Singh brought to the north India a true sense of the modern and contemporary influenced as he was by the West from his youth. An artist who worked daily, he made a statement not just in his work but in his personal style as well.
The last two years he gave a tough fight to cancer, never losing his zest for work and life, and even put together a book encasing a lifetime of work called ‘The World of Shiv Singh’s Art’.

His robes apart, his car in the old days would have blobs of paint, or an old cupboard in his very artistic Panchkula home would be painted a vibrant blue.

He was the life and soul of get-togethers along with his comely and gracious German wife, Gisela. A warm friend to so many, he was what can be best described colloquially as ‘yaaran da yaar’. A Doaba boy, Shiv grew up in his native village of Bassi Gulam Sheikh, now a part of Hoshiarpur town, amidst the idyllic landscape of low hills, rivulets and shady trees, which sowed in him the love of nature and the seeds of art. When time came to choose a vocation, he would laugh and say: “Main sochea kujh aart-shaart keeta jaaye!” Thus began a long artistic journey conducted with full passion and love.

Shiv’s co-traveller was Sohan Qadri of Chachoki village who settled in Denmark. These two village boys had a grand tryst with art encompassing both the East and the West, leaving behind a fine legacy of work.

Shiv studied at the Punjab College of Arts in Shimla (1958-1963), moving to the city in the last year when the college moved here. An art teacher at Sainik School Kapurthala (1963 to 1968), he did his early sculpture and painting there.
But it was his three-year advanced art fellowship in Germany (1968-1970) that was to shape his future art and find him Gisela, the love of his life.

Back in Chandigarh, Shiv became a lecturer of art in the Government Home Science College while devoting all his other time to experimenting in metal sculptures. And when it came to shaping iron pipes, there was no one who could ‘bend it like Shiv’. He moved onto experiment in multiple media: metal, wood and stone. Besides, he painted in a bright and abstract play of colours. Come middle age and erotica made a vigorous presence in his drawings and mini sculptures with buxom bosoms and rounded backsides executed with joy.

The Leisure Valley in Sector 10 is dotted with environmental sculptures made by various sculptures in an international workshop curated by Shiv. His own sculptures and paintings are scattered round the city in different locations leaving a mark for all times. He had a knack of being at the helm of affairs and among the various honours and he received during a rich lifetime were member of the Lalit Kala Akademi at New Delhi. He was also a founder member of the Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi, Chandigarh, as well as of Alliance francaise Le Corbusier de Chandigarh.

Shiv not only worked regularly but also exhibited regularly both in India and Europe. Shiv and Gisela’s son, Yaswin, moved to Europe to work after completing school in the city.

The popularity of a Punjabi, particularly a Sikh, is known by the number of jokes he has inspired — be it Giani Zail Singh, Khushwant Singh or Milkha Singh. So was it with Shiv Singh.

One of my favourite jokes, fabricated probably by his students, was that when he was with his wife in the bridal chamber in Chandigarh, the lady spotted a lizard on the wall. “What is this, Shiv?” she cried out. “Chhipkali,” was his prompt reply. “Tell me in English,” the lady said. Shiv pondered for a while and said: “Crocodile, little crocodile!” Whenever I related this joke in front of Shiv, he would be the first to let out a full-throated laugh true Punjabi style. Adieu! Shiv we will long miss you but your work and fond memories will ever remain with us.

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vHe painted Batalvi’s Loona

Shiv Singh always had close association with poets, authors and musicians. Way back in 1965 he had a unique artistic association with his namesake, poet Shiv Kumar Batalvi. Batalvi had written ‘Loona’, an epic poem empathetic to the maligned woman in the kissa of Puran Bhagat. Two years later ‘Loona’ was to win the poet the Sahitya Akademi award.
Interestingly, the first gilded limited print edition carried the Shiv’s drawing of sensuous yet abstract feminine form. This was a case of rare ‘jugalbandi’.

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