Amandeep Singh is a British Sikh contemporary artist who has brought his exhibition to Victoria Park’s Centre for the Arts for two days. His work utilises a vibrant colour palette, silhouettes and Sikhi imagery. His work marries the traditional with the spontaneous and seeks to tell a story to the audience.
Ishita Mathur: What drew you to art? What excites you about it?
Amandeep Singh: I just think that knowing you can create something from an object or a stick-like thing in your hand – such as a pen – and being able to create something visually is such an impactful thing. I love being spontaneous in life and I think art is the best way to continue that spontaneity. I think being spontaneous is beautiful and with art you can marry the two together. It’s a gift for me. Looking around at the pieces right now is a beautiful thing for me. It’s really impactful and it allows me to keep going.
IM: I love to write and the most difficult thing for me is to sustain my inspiration for a long period of time. So if you have an idea to paint something, how do you then take it from an idea to the finished work we see on the canvas?
A: Yeah, I think it’s a lot of experimentation. Some of these pieces are experimentation so they’re not a final piece because I never limit myself by knowing how a piece is going to look. I feel like the second you do that, you have to stick to a rule and a regulation as to how something’s going to look. I’m the kind of guy who’s like, “Let’s see how it turns out.” If it turns out good, then I will contend with it and I’ll move on with it. I see something through by not allowing myself to have rules and regulations and I think my inspiration is based on the fact that I don’t know how it’s going to look. I love that because that’s what art is and that’s what being inquisitive is.
IM: I noticed that you have a very strong Sikh influence. How much of your religion and culture informs your art style and your art subjects?
A: I feel like a lot of my artwork is inspired by my father who has been a massive catalyst in my career. My sister and I sat at the edge of our bed hearing stories about the Gurus. It’d be a crime for me not to be putting that to use because we come from such a rich background and heritage, you know? Sikhism is full of so many wonderful things including stories about war and there’s so much magic in it. Being an artist and a storyteller, it would be a crime for me not to do. And I feel like there’s a lot to say and a lot that youth can learn from. I’m not the kind of guy who’s going to draw a Guru looking directly at the viewer. I want to put a story within a story and I’d like it to be a little more impactful.
IM: You’re from England, you’re Sikh and recently Brexit has happened. How do you feel about the xenophobia and racism?
A: I don’t try to politically get involved with things but I can say this much; it’s not good. I did vote for staying but I feel like everything’s in shambles right now. It’s just gone downhill. I do my part politically but my power’s always been in my artwork. When things like Trump happen or when there’s a bombing, I try to make a voice in my artwork.
IM: Art creates conversation. What kind of questions and conversations do you want viewers of your art to have or think about?
A: I think mainly I just love for a person to become an artist when they look at my work. That’s why I don’t define what I’ve done because so many times people say, “What does that mean?” and I never explain it properly. When it comes to my abstract pieces, I don’t like to explain them because I feel like I take away someone’s imagination. One second I’m telling you to become an artist and telling you to create and not worry and the next second I’m telling you, “Well actually, your idea is wrong and this is what it means.” So I don’t do that. The number one thing I want people to come across – in regards to questions or conversations – is that they become an artist. For example, someone posted my illustration of Guru Nanak Devji but not because they knew who he was. This man was Christian and the piece reminded him of his grandfather so he posted it and I didn’t have the heart to tell him who it was or who I depicted. I think that’s beautiful that that kind of conversation can come from a Sikhi based artwork.
IM: This exhibition has been presented by Sikh Youth Australia. How did you get involved with them and set this up?
A: SYA has been amazing. I first came to Sydney two years ago and they just believed in my artwork so much. I say this so often – it’s hard to get a platform and it’s hard to have people support your journey, who you are and what you do. SYA and especially Sukhwant Kaly – one of the heads of the organisation – are fantastic and he, from a very young age, has been supporting me and my journey. He finally allowed me to have that platform two years ago and it was such a success so they thought they’d do it again two years on and add Perth and New Zealand to the tour. It’s been phenomenal. But like I said, it takes belief and they gave me that opening step and there’s a bit of pressure to not let them down. So I’ll do my best and I really appreciate them. The turn out last night was amazing. The turn out in Sydney, the turn out in New Zealand – it’s all been fantastic.
IM: ‘Pink Delight 3D’ is a three dimensional piece. What materials did you use to make this?
A: It is gold brushed metal. What’s important about art is that you always need to stay relevant. You always need to do things that involve you. You can’t always stay in your comfort zone or you’re never going to learn. It hit me one day. What would we do if we elevated the artwork out a bit? And then we could shine a light on it and make it 3D. We’ve never seen that before. So we did. We spent three months coming up with the idea and the concept and we made it come to life. This is the first time we’re ever showcasing it – in Perth. The comments we’ve been receiving about it have been fantastic as well.
IM: I noticed there’s a few Disney inspired pieces. Are those about the child in you?
A: Of course. I’ve never lost that childlike wonder. I never have. I think the second you do, you become an adult. When we grow up as kids, the first thing we do is we pick up a pen, we pick up a paintbrush. We’re always painting. Down the line, we just tend to drop it and I’m not sure why. So you know, once you lose that childlike wonder, you lose a lot. I think that’s one thing I’m trying to address here – I never lost that and I don’t want you to lose it. I’m a child at heart and I love knowing that – I’m proud of it. I’ve got a Golden Ticket tattoo from the first ever book I read. Working with kids is another thing that inspires me 24/7. They have so much energy and that’s what I want my artwork to be. I want it to be energetic. I want people to feel refreshed by it. That’s what the colours do and that’s why I use the colours that I do. I want people to absorb them and feel a certain kind of way when they see it.
Interview by Ishita Mathur