Artist Reena Singh was born and brought up in a middle class family in Patna district of Bihar. She was attracted towards Madhubani paintings since childhood and pursued BFA from Patna Arts and Crafts Collage. Being a part of middle class family, she got a bright opportunity to observe and watch the lifestyles of farmers, labourers etc. Their simple lifestyles and struggles always attracted Reena which she started portraying in my artworks. The everlasting struggle and survival problems of labourers and their self belief and confidence to overcome including finding solutions with available resources always motivated her. For Reena, her artworks are a means of representation of her feelings and struggles of the common man.
What’s your artistic background?
My past generations had no knowledge of fine art but fortunately we had the popular Madhubani style painter late Yashoda Devi as our neighbour. My family had a cordial relationship their family. It is the reason behind my special interest in Madhubani art. Slowly my interest shifted toward contemporary arts and I joined the college of art and craft in Patna and later on became a freelance painter.
What’s integral to the work of an artist?
The entire universe is the creation of a master artist. It is filled with millions of colors, good- bad feelings and thoughts. And all these ingredients, constructive-destructive, are the part of it. Whether these feelings are positive or negative, they all are part of the art of an artist and that is the reason why an artist is able to visualize any object and emotions with different perspectives The encouragement from society and education also work to enhance the talent of an artist.
What role does the artist have in society?
An artist is the integral part of this society. They are highly influenced by all that is happening in society, whether good or bad and it is reflected through their work . Art is the voice and language of an artist though which he describes his/her perception.
What art do you most identify with?
Madhubani style has always influenced me.
What themes do you pursue?
The principle theme of my paintings are basic needs like food, shelter, attire of middle class, lower middle class and lower class people and their struggle.
What’s your favourite art work?
I have portrayed various difficulties of middle class and lower class people through my various paintings. But I feel ‘earning a living’ is the core of all these issues and I have painted a series of pictures portraying it. These paintings have been closest to my heart and I have always been emotional while working on them.
Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?
Standing on the rooftop of my house I used to observe poverty ridden people working at construction sites. Even old and pregnant women worked. Children wrapped in rags, barefoot played under the blazing sun. Will they ever be able to live in such houses built by their parents or die struggling their entire life on the footpath, all these thoughts saddened me deeply. I materialized all these emotions on piece of canvas using different colors which were practically absent from the life of those working people.
What jobs have you done other than being an artist?
Apart from being a painter, I’m the wife of a soldier and mother of two children. And I love to impart these two duties in all earnestness. I have spent a few years of my life teaching art to children in school.
Art is the language, voice, weapon, expression, in fact everything for an artist. It is the best way to express his/her thoughts to all the levels of society. My art reflects the grim situation of lower class people. I’m very sensitive in nature and art is my only way to express various aspects like discrimination justice-injustice, poverty of the society. Art is creativity, I get internal pleasure while painting my thoughts on a piece of canvas.
What is an artistic outlook on life?
For an artist, the whole world is a canvas filled with millions of colors. The artist displays various things good-bad, constructive-destructive, high-low,day night etc. though various shades based on his/her perception. As an artist I relate most to black and white colors. It enables us to differentiate between rich-poor, good-bad, high-low and many other things.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Once an art teacher told me that my work displays the bitter truth of this society. We keep ourselves content with the materialistic illusion of this world but your art displays the harsh reality.
Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
I guess no, because art is the best companion of an artist. I can feel my art, I relate and rely on my artworks. An artist spends time with nature and perceives it’s beauty in his/her own way.
What do you dislike about the art world?
Commercialization of fine arts has degraded it’s standard and purpose substantially. It has corrupted the soul of fine arts. But due to the evolution of society and our growing needs, commercialization has become inevitable. These days paintings are more of commercial value than it’s real worth. Artist face a tough choice between being realistic as well as competing in the market.
What do you like about your work?
Drawing is the favorite part of my paintings and I have been praised a lot for my drawings.
Should art be funded?
Of course an artist should be supported financially. He/She is also a human being with basic needs. In order to earn and fulfil their needs, nowadays artist draw paintings with high commercial value rather than reflecting their thoughts. Financial insecurity compels them to become commercial rather than remain artistic. Financial support to artists will empower them to produce pure forms of art. It will protect the beauty and delicacy of art.
What role does art funding have?
Due amount of respect and good facilities will facilitate an artist to perform better. He/she can produce master pieces freely, without any fear.
What is your dream project?
I want to excel in the field of fine arts. I have a dream of owning a big studio and collect renowned paintings of famous painters. I would like to collaborate with institutions that support budding artists from lower class of society.
Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.
I like lots of artist but I never compare myself with anyone. Everyone has their own specialty and all are unique to me. I still have a long distance to cover and I don’t want to interrupt my progress by stopping and comparing myself.
Favourite or most inspirational place?
My home is my favorite place from where I started my journey and St Petersburg in Russia where I saw amazing artefacts closely.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
During my childhood, my mother used to motivate me and tell me to be thankful for everything that I have. She used to say that in this world millions of people sleep empty stomach, we should be grateful that we have all we need. Those very words of my mother inspired me to chose the theme of my work and reflect those thoughts through canvas, brush and paint.
I want to establish myself as a responsible and respectable painter. I want to support financial weak artists and make their dreams come true. I will also start teaching art to children.