Attracted to the allure of big cinematic experiences, we often struggle to appreciate the beauty hidden in the mundane. What seems stagnant and boring reveal such unique insights about our inner lives. These external fragments of our lifestyle hold a sense of calm that we often yearn for. If one looks closely they may find the many stories hidden in our uneventful days.
This is the philosophy behind Toshi Singh's work, an Indian artist now based in Melbourne who evokes the memories of her childhood through art. The inspirations behind her work often relate to the everyday moments, capturing her inner world on a canvas. To get better insight into her creative process, we spoke to Toshi about her personal journey as an artist.
What are some of your biggest influences as an artist?
Mainly food! I love to illustrate stories centred around food but also childhood memories, experiences, travels, people I meet and nature.
Who are some artists who are currently on your radar?
Victoria Semykina, Beatrice Alemagna, Elena Bulay, Richa Kashelkar, Parvathy and Sumedha Sah to name a few.
A project you wish you were a part of?
Yes, Kadak Collective.
What are some things you learned while putting this project together?
I think I've gotten better at working on finer intricacies such as finessing the print on Selvi's saree (fisherwoman in the painting) and creating the minute details on the crumpled white plastic bag next to her.
Tell us about your project.
This was part of a personal project from earlier this year where I started documenting people and places; people who have made a difference in my life in any way and places I loved to visit before I left India.
The illustration is of Selvi, our favourite fish seller in Pondicherry who home delivers us the freshest catch of the day and we affectionately call her 'Meen akka'. She goes from street to street carrying a large aluminium container on her head, selling fish on foot! Despite this, her saree is always neatly tied and so is her hair, in a plait with a flower tucked in sometimes. The exhaustion never shows on her face, and she always greets us with a big smile! Perched on our verandah, Selvi patiently cleans the fish while chatting away with Amma about everything under the sun. The discards then go to a family of crows, to a beautiful Indie dog on our street and to a friendly cat that visits us often. Almost nothing goes to waste!
I was very fascinated with her and this entire process/ ritual, so I decided to capture her on my canvas and that's how this project came about.
What are some of your biggest inspirations over the years of your artistic career?
My art showcases the everyday - people we know and meet, food we eat, places we travel to and books we read. If we look closely, the inspiration is everywhere!
I'm self taught and haven't been an artist for that long to know a lot about other artists and their works. It's only in the past two years during the pandemic that I started doing this more seriously. This period also allowed me the time to study the work of other artists. A few artists that inspired me during the initial stages of my artistic career are- Mario Miranda, Prashant Miranda, Paul Fernandez and Masha Prychnikova. Their work also documents the everyday as they experiment with different mediums and styles. I also absolutely love the works of the twentieth century artists- Paul Gaugin (Tahitian women on the beach) and Henri Matisse's 'The Open Window'.
Describe your creative process and the purpose with which you create.
The art that I make is very personal, the muse is often an inspiration close to my heart such as a special dish my mother likes to make, a special memory from childhood or a person I know and love, a favourite restaurant and so on. I believe creativity comes from a place of familiarity and knowing, as someone once said, 'most personal is most creative' and I totally agree with that. When it comes to personal projects, I find it very easy to pick up a pencil and start drawing the final piece, without making any rough drafts or concept sketches because the idea is pretty clear in my head, right down to the last detail! However, it takes longer when the piece is a commissioned project though.
The creative process is unique to every artist and for me personally, I love to work with tiny little details. I believe they add so much soul and meaning to the artwork which is important because I strive to evoke a feeling of nostalgia and tell a story through them.
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