Artist Talk | 麦海士·辛格谈绘画中的灵性:超脱与内观

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Artist Talk | 麦海士·辛格谈绘画中的灵性:超脱与内观 崇真艺客

BROWNIE Project 正于群展《身外之躯》呈现艺术家麦海士·辛格的绘画作品,并很荣幸地就展览主题与作品对麦海士进行了采访。

BROWNIE Project is presenting the paintings of the artist Mahesh Singh in the group exhibition "THE BODY OF NON BODY" and is pleased to interview him about the theme of his practice and  the works in the exhibition.

对话艺术家麦海士 · 辛格


Artist Talk with Mahesh Singh

Transcendence and Inner View

Artist Talk | 麦海士·辛格谈绘画中的灵性:超脱与内观 崇真艺客

Mahesh在工作室 ©Swatch Art Peace Hotel

Q:你作品中对于自然的描绘会让人联想到Georgia O’Keefe,同时写实和变形相结合的画面带有浓厚的超现实主义色彩,这种独特的语言是如何生成的?

麦海士:虽然我的作品经常被理解为超现实主义,但有趣的是这是第一次有人将我的作品与Georgia O’Keefe的作品进行比较。据我理解,这种关联来自于我们所描绘的内在事物而不是表象。因此,随着绘画的深入,我更少地忠于视觉保真度和对自然的现实描绘,相反,自然变成了传达某些状态和情绪的舞台或布景,而为了实现这一点,我会调整或变形作品中的某些部分使之更具有表现力和哲思。

Q: The depiction of nature in your works is reminiscent of Georgia O ‘Keefe, combining realism and deformation with a strong surreal touch. How does this unique language come about?

Mahesh: Although my work is often understood in terms of surrealism, it is the first time that a comparison has been drawn to that of Georgia O'Keeffe, which is interesting. As I understand, this correlation comes with the intent to portray something which is internal to us rather than things existing outside. Therefore, as I continue to paint, optical fidelity becomes less of a concern for me. I become less concerned with the realistic depiction of nature, but instead, nature becomes a stage or set to convey some mood or emotion. And in order to achieve this I often manipulate/morph some part of it in my work to make it more expressive and contemplative.

Artist Talk | 麦海士·辛格谈绘画中的灵性:超脱与内观 崇真艺客

Georgia O’Keefe在荒漠中创作




Q: How did the experience of growing up in India and living in China influence your works, respectively?

Mahesh: Perhaps, the ever present natural environment in my work comes from my experience of growing up in rural India, which is much closer and in sync with nature. Also, the eastern philosophy and the emphasis on meditation and contemplation, and an emphasis to look inward make a mark in my work.

Studying at China Academy of Art, Hangzhou brought a significant change in my work through the mentorship I received there, especially in terms of forms. It was also an opportunity for me to see many traditional Chinese landscape paintings in person. Moreover, my visit to the Yellow Mountain, twice, also left an impression on me. While I don’t borrow from these two directly, I believe it has influenced my work in certain ways, though it is difficult for me to say to what degree. My work has become more inward-looking and forms and shapes are beginning to have their own presence and energy.

Artist Talk | 麦海士·辛格谈绘画中的灵性:超脱与内观 崇真艺客
麦海士·辛格  Mahesh Singh
《持白花的僧侣》 Monk with White Flowers, 2021
91.5 x 91.5 cm
Oil on canvas




Q: You've mentioned that your works involved transcendental experiences in life (For example, the psychedelic experience caused by fever in childhood in Fever). What do you think is the connection between this kind of experience and spirituality? And how is spirituality reflected in your works?

Mahesh: We perceive and understand the world we live in through our five senses. The information we receive through our senses is then processed and translated into “sense-data” through our brain, which then helps us to navigate our environment effectively and efficiently. It also gives meaning to our own existence and expands our consciousness- through our likes and dislikes, our desires, fears, ambitions and so on. However, if due to some reason our senses stop working properly we find ourselves in a strange world. The painting Fever is a depiction of finding oneself in that strange world, in this case, brought about by almost shutting down of the senses induced by high temperature.

Such experiences tell us that we are capable of perceiving and experiencing a lot more than we usually do, that we are not just our body. Such kind of experiences offers us a glimpse, or opens up some doors momentarily for a heightened awareness and consciousness, which I believe is the basis of spirituality. The Eastern emphasis on meditation, fasting, contemplating, these all lead one in the direction of spirituality by training our body or our mind in certain ways.

Artist Talk | 麦海士·辛格谈绘画中的灵性:超脱与内观 崇真艺客
麦海士·辛格  Mahesh Singh
《狂热》 Fever, 2020
107 x 122 cm
Acrylic on canvas




Q: Who is the person who often appears in your paintings? What is his role in the image?

Mahesh: Some of my paintings are self-referential, such as Fever. So I appear in them. In other paintings, different figures may appear and they can be specific or non-specific, big or small, depending upon the theme of the painting.

In traditional Chinese landscape painting, there is this concept of “The Eye of the Painting” which generally refers to some element, or some form within the painting which may help provide a context to the rest of the image. So, the eye of the painting can be a solitary figure, or a small hut at the base of a mountain, and through these, the rest of the painting can be understood or unraveled. The figures in my work many times also serve the same purpose, of being the eye or the spirit of the painting, though at other times they can be more than that. It very often gives a starting point for the viewer to understand or experience the rest of the painting.

Artist Talk | 麦海士·辛格谈绘画中的灵性:超脱与内观 崇真艺客
麦海士·辛格  Mahesh Singh
《狗狼之境》 In Between Dog And Wolf
170 x 190 cm
Acrylic on canvas




说到我的作品中对光的描述,我相信在《狗狼之境》的创作后,我对它有了更强烈的意识。这幅画的标题取自一个法国短语的翻译(Entre chien et loup),描述的是介于黄昏和黎明的时候,光线让人很难区分狗和狼,换言之,描述的是一天中某个没有足够的光线,事物开始模糊交融的时刻。这幅画之后,我的作品中的光变得更加柔和和微妙,但仍保留着它自身的意义。

Q: Your brush stroke is very delicate with the ability to have people to stop and gaze for a long time. E.g. the hair flow of the body, the water wave, the veins of the mountain, and  you use an exquisite palette to draw light. People can naturally associate the technique with Indian miniature, pointillist, and even Chinese Gongbi paintings. Where did these characteristics come from?

Mahesh: I can understand the association drawn with the Indian miniature, pointillist or Gongbi painting techniques in terms of the delicate brush strokes I often employ in my paintings. Though I like Gongbi paintings I have never studied these above mentioned techniques to integrate into my own work.

Perhaps, the delicate brush strokes in my work are an attempt to hide the physical energy which an artist invests in the process of painting. Thick and bold brush strokes have the capacity to impart a sense of physical energy and dynamism which goes in the process of creation. I believe, since I want my work to carry a sense of silence and stillness I go for smaller and delicate brush strokes.

In terms of depicting light in my work, I believe I have become more conscious of it since the execution of In Between Dog and Wolf. The title of this painting is a translation of a French phrase which describes the time during dusk or dawn when the light is such that it becomes difficult for one to distinguish between a dog and a wolf- in other words, the time of the day when there is not enough light and things start to merge and blend into each other. After this painting light in my work has become softer and subtler, yet retaining its own significance.

Artist Talk | 麦海士·辛格谈绘画中的灵性:超脱与内观 崇真艺客
麦海士·辛格  Mahesh Singh
《托词》 Alibi, 2018
88.9 x 129.5 cm
Oil and acrylic on canvas






Q: Let’s talk about the image of nature and body in your works! How do they serve as a theme in these works? How will they be presented next?

Mahesh: The human body often appears in my work - sometimes it may appear as small human figures which may be specific or non-specific depending upon the subject of the painting. At other times it may be more prominent. Recently, in some of my works the human body is embedded in nature itself, such as a mountain range reminiscent of a sleeping man, or standing rocks which could be read as a psychic presence or phallic symbol (depending upon the interpretation of the viewer).

I believe the intermingling of nature and human body in my work alludes to the fact that we are part and parcel of nature itself. Just the way we contain a soul or spirit, the nature contains us. So many times the human body is “contained” within the natural environment in my work. And at other times, the human body will morph to became a part of nature itself.

It also points to the direction that through our sensory experiences we have the ability to transcend time and space, which is the theme of the painting Alibi, while, at the same time, also being aware of the limitations posed by the physicality of the body- that it cannot escape time and space.

In some of my recent work architecture has also started to appear, such as Threshold. It provides a juncture between the man-made and the natural, hence the title of the painting. Perhaps, it is due to the fact that I have stayed in the city for a long time at a stretch, also indoors. But I am not sure in which direction it will go. Many times I work as the receptor of an image and then translate it on the canvas. I explore the images as they come. But I am sure, the pandemic, subsequent lockdowns, and going back to India after a long time, all these will bring something new to the coming works. 

Artist Talk | 麦海士·辛格谈绘画中的灵性:超脱与内观 崇真艺客
麦海士·辛格  Mahesh Singh
《入口》 Threshold, 2022
90 x 90 cm
Oil on canvas




Q: Please talk about the appearance of the rabbit in Alba.

Mahesh: The appearance of the rabbit in the painting as well as its title Alba both refers to a genetically modified rabbit which glowed florescent green when exposed to blue light. Alba is considered a work of Bio-Art which was done in the year 2000 by the Brazilian artist Eduardo Kac. In China, the prominent artist Li Shan once wanted to genetically modify a monkey for his art but was not allowed to do so due to ethical reasons.

The painting is a contemplation on the “moving forward” of human civilization. We understand the ritualistic animal hunting scenes drawn on cave walls by the ancient people as the earliest form of human expression and art. In the contemporary world we have the ability to modify the animal itself, and some people are doing it in the name of art. The painting is an attempt to sum up this journey, which is represented by the boat. The painting does not wish to ask or answer any questions.

Artist Talk | 麦海士·辛格谈绘画中的灵性:超脱与内观 崇真艺客
麦海士·辛格  Mahesh Singh
《阿尔巴》 Alba, 2022
90 x 70 cm
Acrylic on canvas





Q: How do you understand the sublime in landscape paintings?

Mahesh: I think the sublime can be understood in different ways. The way I understand the sublime in terms of landscape paintings is the depiction of nature in its purest and rawest form - to the extent that the natural forces become overwhelmingly powerful and the man feels small and insignificant in front of it. This kind of depiction we usually find in western landscape paintings.

However, the eastern approach is the co-existence and harmony with the nature. Therefore, nature is not something to be fought against. In many Chinese traditional landscape paintings, we find small human figures, such as a monk or fishermen, and even though the natural environment is dominant and powerful these small figures are at ease with themselves, indulging in their daily activities leisurely. There is hardly any clash between the two.

Responding to the question in terms of my own work, there is a strong presence of nature in it, but I usually don’t intend for the human figure present in the painting to be overwhelmed by it, no matter how small it may be. And even though it may seem so in some of my work, I intend the landscape in my work to exude a sense of psychic energy, rather than that of natural forces. Therefore, many times my works are perceived as something relating to dreams, rather than some natural landscape existing outside.

Artist Talk | 麦海士·辛格谈绘画中的灵性:超脱与内观 崇真艺客
麦海士·辛格  Mahesh Singh
《阅读者》 The Reader, 2022
90 x 110 cm
Oil on canvas





Q: Your paintings present multiple dimensions and allow different perspectives to enter. When audiences are in front of your paintings, do you prefer them to perceive by complete intuition, or analyze and excavate the connotation and meaning of different elements rationally?

Mahesh: When I start with a new work I usually start with certain ideas. The idea could be in the form of a subject matter which could be internal or external to me, or in the form of some fleeting images based on some emotions or experiences passing through my head, which I would like to transfer onto the canvas. So there is an element of specificity when any work is conceived or executed. But when the painting is done and it is out there on display I usually prefer to leave it up to the viewers to read it the way they would like to. Some people are intuitive and they trust their intuition to understand an image, while others may be rational and analytical and they would like to connect the dots to arrive at some meaning.

For me, it is interesting to know how the same painting can be understood differently by different people. Many times as I listen to the viewer, the way they understand or interpret a painting helps me understand my own work better. Occasionally, it would offer some insight for my new work as well.

In the end, if my work allows someone to pause and have a few moments of contemplation and self-reflection that would be good enough for me.

Artist Talk | 麦海士·辛格谈绘画中的灵性:超脱与内观 崇真艺客
BROWNIE Project 群展《身外之躯》展览现场 | Exhibition view






Q: THE BODY OF NON-BODY presents your works in a recent couple of years. When working on this series of paintings, what are your working and living state?

Mahesh: All of my works presented in the exhibition were executed after I arrived in China in late 2017. Some of the paintings from the exhibition were done in Hangzhou, when I was studying at the China Academy of Art. The rest of the paintings are done in Shanghai.

As I look back, I see that the working and the living condition has changed on a big scale since I arrived in Shanghai, largely due to the pandemic. The beginning two years in Hangzhou was nice and fun, with a lot of social interaction and exchange of ideas. I was in a newly started international program at the academy which had a good support system. But when the pandemic started, almost everything shut down all of a sudden, and all of my friends who had gone back to their respective countries for a short winter break could not come back.

Later, moving to Shanghai as a PhD candidate at Shanghai University became a solitary experience. Living off campus, attending all the classes online, as well as many restrictions surrounding the pandemic protocols allowed very limited opportunities for social interaction.

However, for few months now I am an artist-in-residence at Swatch Art Peace Hotel, Shanghai, which is a welcome change. Located at the heart of the city it has a good working environment and support system, with creative people from different streams and backgrounds living and working together.




Q: Do any other artists’ works interest you in the THE BODY OF NON BODY? Are there any works or exhibitions that you recommend to us?

Mahesh: I think all the artists showcased at the exhibition have their own personality and language, while at the same time bound together with a common theme. Chansong Kim’s work stands out for its use of thick and bold brush strokes with fresh paint, conveying a sense of flesh, blood, youth and fragility. Maggie Menghan Chen’s work appeals to me for it possesses a sense of occult, totem and rituals. Hankang Huang effectively portrays the interiority of the human body and its corporeality in his work.

I haven’t been to many exhibitions recently, so I cannot recommend one. But for those who may be unfamiliar, I would like to recommend looking up for the Russian artist Nicholas Roerich, who traveled extensively both to China and India and employed eastern mysticism in his work.

Artist Talk | 麦海士·辛格谈绘画中的灵性:超脱与内观 崇真艺客
BROWNIE Project  群展《身外之躯》展览现场 | Exhibition view






Q: As we know you are planning to go back to India for a while next year. How do you envision this journey?

Mahesh: I have been away from India for more than four years now, largely due to the pandemic-induced lockdown, so I am looking forward to getting back for a while. It will be good to be back home as well as to meet friends. I definitely plan to rest and relax for a while.

At the same time, the pandemic and many restrictions related to it have forced us to live differently for a long time than we usually did. I feel questions related to these things will still be there in the back of my mind, which very likely will influence my new work.

Apart from that, I wish to visit some new places, find some new ideas and images for my future works, while reflecting back on the time spent in China. I feel the interiority of the spaces we live in may make a presence in some of my coming works.

I plan to come back to China in a few months.

Artist Talk | 麦海士·辛格谈绘画中的灵性:超脱与内观 崇真艺客
BROWNIE Project  群展《身外之躯》展览现场 | Exhibition view


About the Artist

Artist Talk | 麦海士·辛格谈绘画中的灵性:超脱与内观 崇真艺客


Mahesh Singh



Mahesh Singh (b. 1985, Bokaro, Jharkhand) was born and brought up in India. He got his BFA and MA degree from Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi and holds an IMFA from the China Academy of Art, specializing in oil and acrylic painting.

Influenced by the notions of transformation, transcendence and mystery in eastern religions and philosophies, Singh’s paintings present an inner experience with a sense of vacuum of stillness and eternity. He tends to use distinct or obscure elements to build a picture, which is full of indications to arouse people's deep thinking. Landscape usually serves as his subject, the carrier of consciousness, dreams and memories. Drawing from his psycho-somatic or psycho-spiritual experiences, Mahesh tries to suffuse his work with an awareness that allows the work to be contemplated and considered on multiple levels. Space and body, vision and psychology, artist and canvas, these connections and dialogues lead the audience to enter the journey of transcendence with intuition and trigger a moment of meditation.

2025 博士候选人,上海大学上海美术学院,上海,中国
2020 艺术硕士,中国美术学院,杭州,中国
2021 大众传播硕士,国立伊斯兰大学,新德里,印度
2009 艺术学士,国立伊斯兰大学,新德里,印度

2022 山!山!山!艺术节,长沙,中国
2021 后浪艺术博览会,华萃艺术,上海,中国
2019 双影——当代艺术展,天际线美术馆,杭州,中国
2018 来自东方的信:青年国际绘画展,中国美术学院博物馆,杭州,中国
2014 全印度美术和工艺协会,全国摄影年展,新德里,印度
2009 第12届全印度绘画展,国家拉里特卡拉学院,勒克瑙,印度

2022 卡拉南德大奖,Prafulla Dahanukar艺术基金会,孟买,印度
2017 中国政府奖学金,国际艺术硕士,中国美术学院,杭州,中国
2014 三等奖,完美的德里:摄影比赛和展览,由印度德里政府的信息和宣传主任组织

2025 PhD Candidate at SAFA, Shanghai University, Shanghai, China
2020 IMFA, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China
2012 MA in Mass Communication, Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi, India
2009 BFA, Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi, India

Selected Exhibitions:
2022 Changsha Mountain Art Festival, Changsha, Hunan Province, China
2021 Post Wave Art Fair, Hua Cui Art Museum, Shanghai, China
2019 Double Shadows- A Contemporary Art Exhibition, Skyline Art Gallery, Hangzhou, China
Asia Art Festival, Changwon, Seongsan Art Hall, South Korea
2018 Letters from the East: Inter-Youth International Painting Exhibition, Museum of China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China
All Art Under the Sun: The 40th Anniversary of Education for the Overseas Students, China Academy of Art, Museum of China Academy of Art, China
2014 All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society, National Annual Exhibition of Photography, New Delhi, India
2009 12th All India Painting Exhibition, State Lalit Kala Akademi, Lucknow, India Grants

Awards and Residencies:
2022 Kalanand Grand Award, Prafulla Dahanukar Art Foundation, Mumbai, India Artist-in-Residency, Swatch Art Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China
2017 Chinese Government Scholarship, International Masters of Fine Arts, China Academy of Art, China
2014 3rd Prize, Picture Perfect Delhi: Photography Competition and Exhibition, Organized by Director of Information and Publicity, Govt. of NCT of Delhi, India


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Artist Talk | 麦海士·辛格谈绘画中的灵性:超脱与内观 崇真艺客

Artist Talk | 麦海士·辛格谈绘画中的灵性:超脱与内观 崇真艺客

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