In the project Transit Spaces I have explored the pulses of conception and maternal embodiment. The project stems from the intuition of pregnancy and moves towards the anticipation of the birth of my daughter Meher in 2002. I have dealt with both these stages – the temporalities of maternal experiences – in my graphite drawings on paper, oil paintings on canvas and sumi-e on shikishi paper. What is peculiar is that the experience, lived through, and of the body, as an ‘in-transit’ space for the unborn child, is rarely portrayed by either a figurative depiction of the baby or that of the foetus. Rather, the process of germination and growth within my body itself became the focus of expression; I sought a metaphorical route in my work. Through the botanical and micro-biological life which shares the same process of procreation, I expressed the resonance of my own biological and psychological experiences. The progression of pregnancy within the body and its expression in art came quite close.

The images presented here are one segment of this project. During my explorations, one of the forms which emerged was the womb-like-tree or the tree-like-womb. It worked as a point of coalescence of the garbha (the womb) and the tree. The hybrid form consolidates the fruit bearing, productive and procreative abilities of both the tree and the female body. I playfully situate it within nature, as well as within the toy world of my daughter. From image 1 to image 4, this hybrid form evolves in scale and intensity, gradually becoming heavier, fuller. With the birth of my daughter, it spontaneously opened up, letting out the mystery and joy inherent in creating new life (image 5). Colour adds another dimension, as the crimson palette allows free associations with the flesh and blood, the corporeal ‘instrument’ which effects birth, as it were: ostensibly absent in the images, but actually resonating through such visual keys.

Transit Spaces
A series of graphite drawings, sumi-ink drawings on shikishi paper and oil paintings on canvas, which I began to create in 2002. The works are my explorations of pregnancy as an ongoing experience at the time of the project in progress, and continued to resonate well after the birth of my daughter. Through an absence of human body in the works, I focused on expressing maternal embodiment, which to me was both mysterious and exhilarating at the same time. Nature became a metaphor for me, through which I voiced both my pregnant state as well as my sense of connectedness with it.

HOME IN / OUT Project

Presenting my works from the project Home In/Out for this M.A.M.A. issue makes me introspect about my art and its intuitive process. From the vantage point of an artist-mother, I am now at a stage of reflection. The exercise of relooking, sorting and selecting the works for the presentation is a departure from exercising my dual identity in creating my work, to utilizing it for re-searching its creative implications. It has brought me to ask myself a question (which, during the process of creation, was superseded by the spontaneity of emotive expression). How has motherhood impacted my art process? It is with this in mind that I look back at my project Home In/Out.
My identity as an artist-mother (or mother-artist) has deeply influenced my art. Perhaps its most important role has been to generate maternal emotions within me and the need to creatively express these at the same time. This is obvious from the fact that often, the stages of my life and the phases in my art have run parallel to each other. Pregnancy and motherhood created room, first for embodied experience, and then for physical and emotional interactions with my daughter Meher. Each stage brought some or all of the experiences of anticipation, curiosity, ecstasy and anxiety. It introduced my ‘biological other’ (my daughter) in my life, because of whom I have had to find a new equilibrium in my identity. For instance, while mothering, the artist in the mother occasionally struggled to find time for making art. At other times, the mother in the artist emerged as a fount for contextual and visual resources for artistic creation. Motherhood thus created a ground for experiences which were both physiological and emotional, obvious yet mysterious, all of which needed a release.
Post-pregnancy, the home became the site for a constantly evolving maternal performance in the everyday, and this began to evolve as a subject matter in my art too. The joys and anxieties of mothering Meher started surfacing as artistic concerns, thematically and often materially. In Home In/Out the binaries of the inside and the outside allude to the ‘home’ within and outside the body of the mother, though I am primarily concerned with the latter. At the same time it also deals with the idea of the home within the domestic space and the social space beyond it. Beyond the womb and the placenta, the exterior space in the larger world is the new ‘home’: the domestic and the social space, in which the relationship with the biological other is established, constructed and evolved. This new home outside of the mother’s body (mine) becomes a region of care that is naturally nurturing, and also subject to socially and culturally constructed maternal anxieties; to which the mother in the artist (in me) responds and the artist in the mother (in me) re-responds. Questions and concerns related to the upbringing and welfare of my daughter which confronted me during care giving, nurturing and feeding, were transmuted into an artistic quest, leading to drawings in conté and charcoal, etchings, oil paintings and installations with found objects. The anxieties of mothering a daughter hence re-emerge in literally different forms; the vulnerability of the girl child becomes a central question in art as in life. Read more

more about Ruchika…

Ruchika Wason Singh holds degrees in B.F.A.,Painting (1997) and M.F.A.,Painting,(1999) from College of Art, New Delhi, India. In 2008 she received degree for doctoral research on the sociological frameworks in Indian Contemporary Art, as a U.G.C. Junior Research Fellow at the University of Delhi. Ruchika has had two Solo Exhibitions Yesterday Once More, Triveni Gallery (2002) and Transit Spaces , Lalit Kala Akademi (2007) New Delhi. She has participated in international platforms such as Shanti-Sadhana –Sunyata-Contemporary Indian Art, Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum, Germany (2001-02); Theertha International Painters’ Residency, Sri Lanka (2007);Third Beijing International Art Biennale, China (2008);11th Asia Arts Festival, Ordos, China (2009) and Experiences: Asian Women in Global Culture, Book-Project of the IWAB, Korea (2011).