Artist profile: Anita Singh

A clay bowl in one hand, a dental tool in the other, Anita Singh draws lines on the surface of the clay bowl, working her way around it, occasionally pausing to assess her work.

The bowls, she explains, are formed using round and half round moulds made for a sculptural installation at the Eastern Edge Gallery in St. John’s. Unlike the gallery piece, the bowls Anita is working on now are intended to be functional pieces – things that are both nice to look at and nice to use.

With her container of tools in front of her, and the comfortable way she works the clay, it’s easy to think Anita is purely a ceramic artist, as she appears so adept with the medium. But that would be a mistake, and an injustice to the eclectic talents of this multidisciplinary artist.

Anita is adept at papermaking and bookmaking, painting, encaustic work, graphic design and printmaking, and ceramics both functional and sculptural. Her latest foray into sculptural ceramics was exhibited at Eastern Edge gallery in St. John’s this past fall.

“It kind of looks like a mobile, except it’s large scale and it’s raining down from the ceiling – discs and balls and seed-like objects. As you get closer to eye level, it’s more specific seeds.”

The hanging sculpture, connected by nearly invisible thread, is amazing. Round, featureless forms at the top, the same forms expressed with emerging detail, then below them highly detailed round shapes with smaller, variously shaped pieces. It has an evolutionary timeline feel to it.

It would be great to, at this point, draw a parallel between the evolutionary timeline look of the piece and the evolution of Anita’s work in ceramics, to discuss how she went from painting to clay. But there’s a problem – it would be entirely untrue.

Anita’s explorations in clay began in the early 90s, with her first signed pieces dating to 1993. She put it aside to work in other mediums – printmaking, papermaking, book making, painting, graphic design – but then, after relocating to Newfoundland about 10 years ago, she began to feel that desire to work in clay once again. Now, it is time.

“I think you have many lifetimes with clay to explore and experiment with. In some ways I feel like I am new to it,” she says.

Anita found her way to Newfoundland after a roundabout journey that began in South America. It’s all succinctly stated in her frequently cited artist bio:

“Anita Singh was born in Guyana, South America with a Russian and Indian bloodline. She grew up in Montreal and Toronto, where she studied graphic design and printmaking, and lived in British Columbia for 10 years, working as a graphic designer and visual artist. She has done internships and apprenticeships in book arts, paper-making and printmaking in both New York State and England.  During a cross-Canada trip in 1999, she discovered and fell in love with Newfoundland. She lives with her husband and son in downtown St. John’s, where she works as a printmaker, mixed media artist, and art instructor.”

Anita has a studio in her home where she paints and does encaustic work, but the space isn’t set up for ceramic work. For that, she uses the Clay Studio in the basement of the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador’s building. For her inspiration, though, Anita ventures into the wild, where she opens her eyes to the artistic potential of nature. For the installation at Eastern Edge, seeds were her focus.

“I’m a collector of things, and those are the things I like to collect. I love the way they look. Generally my inspiration is nature. These days it’s been more close up, like a magnified view. I love patterns and texture and I find a lot of that in seeds.”

To see Anita’s art close-up and in person, you can find her work in St. John’s at the Leyton Gallery and at the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador.