Artist/Activist Gets the Word Out in Visual Language

FIVE SENSES IS ONLY THE START
Tarah Singh feels things in a deeper frequency.
Portrait by Rachel Pressley

Multimedia sculptor, painter, and all-around creative/community dynamo Tarah Singh believes artists have a responsibility to document history. She uses the term “herstorian” to describe her own commitment to documenting life from a woman’s perspective. The global pandemic invited — nay, demanded — such documentation, but it also made the process difficult for Singh. “I felt kind of blocked,” she says, “and didn’t want to paint sad things. I started to feel suffocated.”

So she took a break from painting, but still filled lots of sketchbooks. She reached out to inspiring fellow artists, those she calls “my touchstone people.” She spoke with friends and family around the world, some of whom, she says, were living under martial law. 

Abandon

“It felt like the globe was on pause,” says Singh, who was born in Washington, D.C., and has lived in Western North Carolina since she was five. “My friends in Greece said they had to text the police before they could even go to the store. I helped my grandma do crosswords every day, and I’ve never used so many four-letter words in my life.” 

Frequency 1 and 2

What eventually emerged was her most recently completed series of paintings focused on duality. “It’s about the flip side of the coin, and asking if both sides can be good. Recently I did some paintings of food, just as an exercise, and asked myself, ‘Do these jellybeans I painted look like pills?’” As an expressionist, Singh paints what she feels and strives to capture raw emotion. “I bounce around in different ideas, and believe that every medium or media is another voice to express yourself.” Based on methods she learned studying in Italy, she once created a series of attractive garden sculptures — but designed the insides to specifically serve the needs of honeybees, as a healthy habitat. 

Wide Eyed

Her latest work in progress, titled “The Gaze,” will use mirrors to illustrate its many-layered motif: Viewers will get to see their own reaction to the painting in real time. “It’s about being judged … I think there are not many times in the world that we view ourselves as we have experiences.”

The mother of two grown daughters, Alexandra (also a visual artist) and Sydney Silber, Singh adds, “The human experience and human connection is intimacy, to me.” That’s why she celebrates #Human, a social-media movement, and makes and sells #Human T-shirts. “My family is the melting pot; we’re from all over. But growing up it was so confusing because people would look at me and be like, ‘What are you?’ Imagine how that makes a child feel.” 

Somewhere Else

Singh, who says that her color palette derives from her Caribbean heritage — her father is from Guyana — distills such experiences into personal symbolism, crafting what she calls her own visual language to express herself. And when she writes down words or numbers, she sees them as colors, noting, with a laugh, “No, I don’t do drugs.”

She reveals that she experiences synesthesia — a neurological condition where the five senses are transposed (e.g. “hearing” colors). “I don’t really see lines, because everything vibrates. To me they are frequencies — I like to think about everything on an energetic level.”

No! I’m Medusa

Tarah Singh, Asheville. Singh is presented by From Here and Far Gallery in Biltmore Village (3 Swan St., fromhereandfar.com). For more information, see tarahsingh.com; find the link for her #HUMAN project at tarahsingh.com/hashtag-human. The artist is on Instagram (@tsingh28729), Twitter (@TarahSinghArt), and Facebook (Singh Studio.art), and she also sells her work via Fine Art America (fineartamerica.com/profiles/tarah-singh/shop). Singh has an exhibit tentatively planned at Asheville’s Pink Dog Gallery for the fall of 2021. 

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