Updated: Mar 23
A CONVERSATION BETWEEN NIDHI SAMANI AND MADHVEE DEB
Nidhi Samani Gallerist and curator and Gallery Studio-ID, Singapore
NS: A few months ago, I met Madhvee Deb – an Indian artist who, after having lived in Africa, Australia, and Europe, now calls the Southeast Asian island state of Singapore her home. In 2014, she attained her Masters in Arts (Fine Arts) from Goldsmiths College of Art, at Lasalle College of the Arts.
I was drawn in by her journeys undertaken in synchrony as an entrepreneur, a wife, mother, and an artist. Running and managing various successful online ventures while finding different means of expression through art, it was no easy feat for an individual, and hearing Madhvee relate her aspirations as an artist was truly an inspiration for myself. Getting to know the narratives which resonates with her Inner Dimensions, which our gallery seeks to connect with, we decided to show her works through our gallery at the Affordable Art Fair Singapore in November 2019.
Her work ‘Imperfect Perfection’ holds a narrative of her inner dimensions that remains close to her heart. Quoting Madhvee, “Our life is in a constant state of flux: all the time evolving to attain perceived perfections and eliminate imperfections. Internal conflict is ever so often created with the natural progression of life; however, acceptance allows us to appreciate the beauty and melancholy of it, and we emerge even stronger.” Her art-making process, in particular, is informed by the notion of capturing emotions, remembrance, identity, human perception, and comprehension of reality.
Every artist internalises conversations that trigger them to take on their own journeys in their own expressions. We find out more of Madhvee’s journey directly from her.
NS: Can you tell us about your art work, and what inspires you?
MD: To summarise it into one word, “Life.”
There are times when the inspiration for a piece is just one source; in other instances, there are multiple things that inspire me. I would say it is more about the state of mind that I am in which dictates how I look at my proximities, subsequently resulting in the form of artwork.
Most of my work attempts to create awareness about social issues. However, the series Imperfect-Perfections is all about internal struggles, reflections, and attitudes to overcome such conflicts. Meditation and the Japanese art of Kintsugi have been two strong influences in the series.
NS: Which artist inspires you? Why and how?
MD: There are so many artists to name. One common thing about all of them is their work has a deeper meaning and/or creates an unspoken connection with the viewer. Doris Salcedo, Diane Arbus, Sol Lewitt, Daido Moriyama, Pipliotti Rist, and Olafur Eliasson are just a few to name. These artists may not show a direct impact on my visual styles. Instead, my take away from their approach is to be constant in producing works and experimenting with new concepts without the fear of failure.
NS: What are your genres of works?
MD: I began my career with travel photography but soon moved to more meaningful projects where I have explored documentary style photography, conceptual works, and abstract themes. Till now commentary on societal concerns and the use of layers to illustrate the complexity of these issues remains constant in my art practice. What I love about art-making is the liberty to learn and explore. This constantly challenges and helps me to make stronger work.
LIKE EVERY ARTIST, I AM LEARNING AND GROWING WITH EVERY SUCCESS AND EVERY MISTAKE. I AM TOO YOUNG TO LOCK MYSELF IN THE BRACKET OF A GENRE YET—LET’S DO THAT THE DAY I MAKE MY LAST PIECE.
NS: You work on different genres of works. Can you briefly take our readers into your world of art-making? Why and when do you choose certain mediums like air clay, photography, or videography?
MD: It’s actually very simple. I don’t let my medium dictate my work or concept. Instead, it’s the other way round. Often, my works are inspired by everyday observations, which means I am encountering great ideas more often than I can actually implement them into my practice. The best method to filter what I want to work on is by allowing time for automatic elimination. By doing this, I am left with certain ideas that haunt me for days or sometimes years; those are the ideas that I am certain I must work on. Such a long period of mulling over also gets further established by deeper research. During this process, the medium also jumps out. Obviously, the medium further evolves once the actual art making begins. However, I must say photography and video are closer to my heart, and when necessary, I introduce other media.
NS: You mentioned about the importance of setting your art-making process to capture emotions, remembrance, identity, human perception, and comprehension of reality; can you tell us more about this? How do you express them in art form?
MD: Human psychology has been a constant theme in all my works. It is probably also a reflection of the kind of person I am. I am drawn to activities and emotions that surround us and require a voice. As an artist, I am privileged to have the talent and to have gone through the education and training, but with privilege comes with a great responsibility. In the hyper-connected world, visibly, there are so many inconsistencies and society’s callousness towards a plethora of issues along with their reluctance to contribute to generating of empathy is simply dreadful. I cannot be that person. I get immense satisfaction whenever my work manages to connect with the viewer and raises questions within and about their psyche.
NS: What kind of feedback do you receive from your buyers?
MD: Let me answer this question from another perspective. I have heard all sorts of comments, starting from “I don’t get it” to people leaving the exhibition with a feeling of empathy towards the topic of research. Let me share a few incidences that I remember vividly: After my exhibition Ready as I’ll ever be which explored the notion of gender dysphoria, a highly educated senior medical practitioner came to me and said, “thanks for shaking my ignorance. For the first time, I actually understood how they feel. I am ashamed to have been secretly discriminating.” Another time, long after my exhibition Digital Waste was over, a group of youngsters sat behind me in a restaurant, all busy with their phones. Suddenly, some of them started quoting lines from my video work The F-art of Social Media, and reminded each other to stop being disconnected from reality. The feeling was incredibly gratifying.
NS: What would you like your readers to know about your 2020 plans?
MD: I am excitedly looking forward to the rest of 2020. Besides spending quality time with my family, my focus would be on research and development of the new series. Work from this series will be part of an international travelling exhibition, which explores the theme of migration through concurrent shows in Sweden, Singapore, Malaysia, Scotland, the United States, and a few other venues to be confirmed. My last quarter of the year will conclude with a residency at NPE Singapore that will result in an exhibition.
NS: Indeed, Madhvee Deb’s Inner Dimension bores through the fabrics of society and right into the suppositions of the human condition. To understand her works is to understand our very essence as individuals within a greater community, and that we are all, one way or another, closer than we could ever imagine. Browse through Madhvee’s collection of Imperfect Perfection