On Shimmering Air
Arts Illustrated|June - July 2019
On Shimmering Air

Artist Sumakshi Singh shares her thoughts about the criss-crossing rivers of time and memory and why the poetry inherent in the act of embroidery is perhaps one way of navigating this space of unknowability

Praveena Shivram

I am sitting in a room. In front of me, a wall, a massive wall of memories, is crowding for my attention, like a Sunday morning celebrity darshan. All I need to do is wave and close my eyes for them to disappear, knowing that when I do open my eyes, the ones that remain are the ones that stay with me for life. I have often wondered if the memories we hold (or the memories that hold us) are what constitute the choices we make, because memory itself is born out of choice, and as much as remembering is a gift of the universe, distortion is the gift of mankind. What then, of the memories that I discard? Where do they go? Have they simply closed their eyes to me?

As I experience Sumakshi Singh’s breathlessly light ‘groundless thread drawings’ (where once the embroidery is done, the fabric is taken away), I am transported to that room again. I am confronted with my memories, my choices, again. And it is strangely hypnotic, this ability that thread has, that embroidery has, that patterns have, of dancing with a grace that is fragile and a power that is rooted to the earth. Singh’s works are tangible experiences of deeply resonating truths that are somehow intertwined with the intangible ones that we carry. And as the lines blur, it doesn’t matter anymore that it is me sitting in another room, at a different time and place, a piece of cloth tightly grasped within a round wooden frame, as my needle and thread create soft, minuscule holes through which I can continuously lose and find myself, or that it is Singh herself, sitting in her studio, meditating with her needle and thread. ‘I am very conscious of this dance between the visible intent and the ‘behind the scenes’ mapping of the trajectory of the thread, the marking of time with each stitch, the story told by the continuous and discontinuous threads, a knot, a stutter in judgement or a colour cut short. In my experience, being fully present in the current, tangible action (the movement of the needle, the brush, the finger on the clay) is being in a flow, an almost hypnotic flow; and I often suspect that this flow being directed magnetically by the pattern/form awaiting manifestation. And I am constantly aware of the wonderful mysteriousness of this invisible thing waiting to reveal itself,’ says Singh.

And when it does, at least for us the viewer, it is like the different threads of the ocean surrendering to the rhythm of the moon, knowing all the while what when the waters are calm again, the silver pattern of the moonbeam will remain. A choice made, a choice unmade; what remains is what leads you to the unknowability of what exists beyond.

What is your earliest memory of embroidering? And what is it about embroidering that truly speaks to you? That even 18 hours of embroidering for a work then becomes possible, that can even make ‘time elastic’?


You can read up to 3 premium stories before you subscribe to Magzter GOLD

Log in, if you are already a subscriber


Get unlimited access to thousands of curated premium stories, newspapers and 5,000+ magazines


June - July 2019