Recently, the South Asia Center graduate assistant interviewed Kuldeep Singh, who joined the University of Washington in the Fall of 2022 as a Full-Time Lecturer of Painting & Drawing. Prior to this work, he taught at Delhi University and the University of Iowa. He has also been a guest critic at NYU and Rhode Island School of Design. Read on to learn more about instructor Singh and his interdisciplinary approach to Art.
GA: Could you tell us about your motivation behind becoming an artist?
KS: It was inbuilt since a child, as I recall. By the time I was in middle school I was already dreaming of being an artist. Aiming to become a painter: a visual artist! I was an active and studious kid in high school. Did well in my subjects [as a science major] and was participating in inter-school art competitions simultaneously, throughout. And when it came to choosing between Medicine versus Art, I listened to my heart and with the support of my family I went to College of Art, in New Delhi. And thus, started my journey as a professional artist. New Delhi as a city provided a strong cultural foundation, where I was regularly immersed in watching regional and contemporary theatre, along with critically acclaimed Indian classical dancers. Along with regularly going to contemporary art exhibitions. This led to a deeper understanding of art, and art history as well as the social fabric of creative life and its challenges. It was during my sophomore year that I started learning the Indian classical dance form of Odissi, along with Visual art that provided me a deep understanding of inter-relativity between art forms, ethnographic approaches and social history of art. This journey still continues, leading to the ongoing search for simplicity in everyday complexity
GA: How has your South Asian background influenced your art?
KS:I was born and raised in India and came to the U.S. when I was 26. Hence the South Asian influence in my work is by default, especially my interdisciplinary take in visual art through my in-depth understanding of Odissi dance form and its compound expression in music and percussive history [combined all, which is very much a temporal drawing/sculpture in spacetime]. With this deep and embodied foundation, my work now extends into ecofeminism and queerness, with a decolonial awareness. Creating works that have a speculative narrative, be it a short film or a painting with a tease between figuration and abstraction.
GA: Tell us about your interdisciplinary approach to Art.
KS: Lately, more and more of my work is rooting itself in the plural aspects of nature/ecology as a center of everything. With this profound thought, I create my art projects [paintings and short films/performances] which are based on storytelling. Drawing is central to this process, be it diagrams, musical notations, short written excerpts in the same sketchbook, or more detailed figurative drawings, etc: all these become the concrete basis of my fleeting imagination. These drawings incarnate into paintings and short films.
At a given time, I start many paintings that evolve simultaneously, with periodic pauses. Submissive male characters are key in these which often occupy themselves in vistas of suggested landscape, evoking a sense of surrender and sacredness. Parallelly in the studio, I create performative components in dance movement which I also record as collage-based drawings. From these, often originate my short immersive films that are completely process based, for which I often collaborate with friends to cast them as solo protagonists. These digital films are slowly made. And edited by myself. For the sound design part, I often collaborate with musician friends across the globe for given needs and hypnosis. The interdisciplinary approach is hence intertwined through process both between subjects and media.
GA: What brought you to the University of Washington?
KS: I was shortlisted and selected through the UW Art Department, and moved from Brooklyn, NY to Seattle in the Fall of 2022. As I reflect from these bygone months: the time spent has provided a nuanced reflection in my own research. I like the business and hustle of NYC and many of my professional/creative friendships being there. But I do like the peaceful studio environment at UW, Seattle and deepening the research part of my work. Which directly leads to deepening my teaching: where my practice leads to pedagogy. This has added another dimension in my life, since the move.
GA: What can students look forward to learning from your upcoming Courses?
KS: [In these] past two quarters, since I have taught at UW, I have trusted further the power of dialogue and open communication, and fostering team-building amongst my students. Listening to their needs and how we can collectively navigate creative problem solving and learn from each other, is the heart of my teaching methodology. For this, I foster imagination, inventive concept solving and individual research. I deeply believe in the amalgamation of historical concepts and knowledge entwined with contemporary art awareness towards my teaching goals. As an actively engaged artist, between NYC and Mumbai, I further bring an array of lively resources for my students. And guide them in prospective career related advancements as well.