THE INTERVIEW: IN CONVERSATION WITH RATI SINGH
We planned a day-trip to Rati Singh’s studio at the Shri Ram School where she has been teaching art and textiles to students for over 20 years. Her art room overlooks a small garden and is filled with plenty of natural light. She has succeeded in dusting off the trivialities of daily life and has instilled inspiration for many students, one of them being the designer behind Anomaly. We revisited the art room to catch up with her to find out how she identifies with our designs and manages to keep the students and herself motivated after more than a decade.
What are the three key pieces in your wardrobe?
It has to be a white churidar, a pair of jeans and a collar shirt.
What’s the one piece of clothing that you would like to wear to work more often?
Anything with pockets. I need pockets. I can’t carry my cell-phone etc. in my hand. We’re working people. We have our bags of course but it’s irritating to find things constantly in a bag; since we carry our lives in them and it’s tough to have to go through that process each time one is looking for a quick find object. Thus pockets!
What’s the most integral thing to the work of an artist? Do you think clothing can be perceived as art?
I think that the most integral thing for an artist is to have inspiration and perseverance. One needs both to make any kind of art. Clothing, textile, cloth itself, fabric and how you fashion it is all definitely art. For me, clothing is about feeling completely comfortable and in a way that is inconspicuous. In a school, it’s not about me as much as the young adults who come to me. I need to be appropriately dressed yet not dressed in a way where it would divert my students.
Which is your favourite piece from our collection?
What I’m wearing right now!
Anomaly makes western silhouettes that are minimal. How do you think you or your peers would accept such a brand given our culture is rooted in our history and tradition?
Culture is there in varying intensity in everyone’s DNA around the world. But I don’t think we need to wear our cultural identity on our head as a crown every day. So, I don’t see brands and culture or tradition being in conflict with each other at all. I think Anomaly has a universal appeal. It captures the very basic lines of the imagination. These clothes have universal appeal without being generic because of their lines. Also for me, they are high fashion because of the finish. A stripe-collar shirt is available everywhere. But this kind of superior finish and the cut is not. These clothes have room for my personality. These clothes are adaptable for different occasions.
How would you describe your creative process? What helps you culminate a piece of art?
There has never been a system for my creative process. My creative process is organic and it’s evolving as we speak. Time helps me culminate a piece of art. Docking time is extremely important. ‘Eurythmy’- is a word which technically means the feeling one gets when every principle of art and design comes together. Its meaning is intangible. It is “the feeling of rightness”. Achieving eurythmy in everything and all things define my creative approach.
What’s the one tool that is indispensable to your studio?
A pencil and a white clean drawing sheet. We call a drawing sheet a ‘Surface’ in my room. For my students, the surfaces will keep changing with time as not always will they work on paper. See, you are working on cloth!
How important is your work-space for you and how do you re-invent it?
All art here is about change and transition. I teach students to learn to trash easily. I tell them, “Don’t cling to that lovely painting that you make because there will be better ones. Let’s respect it, we will display it for a while but let’s not take it to bed and heart and think, “I’ve arrived.” So, my space changes a lot because there’s fresh work coming in constantly.
How do you think you have evolved as a person through teaching?
Being an art teacher is an exceptionally organic job. I have to adjust my thinking or what I need to say to these young adults under my care all the time. I have to teach certain classical principles, which form the backbone of all arts. There’s no one way of teaching this and I have to teach them in a way they want to learn. It has made me into a listener and has translated into how I approach many of my personal endeavours.
Can you tell us a little about your favourite artist?
I have many favourite artists but there’s one I revisit often. He was a craftsman, a printmaker, designer and an Architect -William Morris. He’s an integral part of the arts and crafts movement. He was motivated and inspired by nature and revolutionized England by making patterns and designs available to the common man.
What are you reading right now?
At the moment, I’m reading a lovely book called Voltaire’s Vine and Other Philosophies: How Gardens Inspired Great Writers by Damon Young. Aristotle, Rousseau, Emily Dickinson and many other philosophers, have had a garden in their lives which has played a significant role in their lives. This book has short essays on how the garden affected their writing. Gardens have played a huge role in my life as well and these essays resonate with me.
Music that helps you unwind?
Symphony No. 6 by Beethoven. Pastoral.
Thank you so much, Ms. Singh, for inspiring us yet again with your insightful answers!
Photography: Tenzin Laghlayal (@tenlhagyal)