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How Jyoti C Singh Deo ‘Coal’i’fied’ her solo show

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Bengaluru-based artist Jyoti C Singh Deo talks about her upcoming solo art exhibition ‘Coal’i’fied’

Bengaluru-based artist Jyoti C Singh Deo talks about her upcoming solo art exhibition ‘Coal’i’fied’

Often a way of life is etched so deep in our mind’s eye that we fail to notice its absence. For artist Jyoti C Singh Deo who was born and brought up in Jamshedpur, coal mines were always a part of the landscape.

“I would travel an hour to school each day and we would see piles of coal, mountains of black tar and slag; it was an industrial town and a beautiful one. In places like Jharkhand, the landscape is different too — it is all black and the roads are brown. The entire area is dotted with opencast mines (where minerals are sourced from open-air pits) or quarries and it is quite common to see villagers on cycles, ferrying big sacks of coal,“ says Jyoti.

Artist Jyoti C Singh Deo
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Life took her places and once when she was passing a coal mine in Lekhapani, Assam, she recollected the landscapes of her childhood. “Everything about life out there was different, from everyday vocabulary to the way people dressed to keep their clothes from getting grimy, courtesy the ever-present coal dust. Since I grew up there, I thought it was common knowledge, but many people don’t know about life here.”

She recounts how difficult it was to source coal in Bengaluru where she is now based. “I wanted coal pieces for an installation and it was so difficult to find. All I got was charcoal (derived from wood) and eventually I took to searching for coal online. The situation was both difficult and hilarious because what was so common in one place, was scarce elsewhere.”

Jyoti who is a self-taught artist adds that she began sketching with charcoal and pencil in childhood. “It came easily to me and I got the hang of charcoal early on. I eventually discovered various media and have worked with oils, acrylics, ink and watercolours.”

A piece by artist Jyoti C Singh Deo

A piece by artist Jyoti C Singh Deo
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A journalist by profession, Jyoti realised she too could be a full-time artist whilst interviewing another artist and she took it up as her full-time passion in 2003. “I was constantly painting; even as a working woman, I would spend at least 20 minutes everyday, painting with oils.”

Since then, there has been no looking back for Jyoti. Besides participating in numerous group shows, she had her first solo show in 2008 at the Lalit Kala Akademi in Bhubaneswar, which was followed by her second at Rangoli Metro Art Gallery in Bengaluru, a couple of years later.

Jyoti says that she began working, the coal-centred theme just came up and began to play itself across her work. Yet she felt something was lacking. “What I felt just wasn’t coming across; my work wasn’t doing justice to what I wanted to express.”

A piece by artist Jyoti C Singh Deo

A piece by artist Jyoti C Singh Deo
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

When a recent surgery limited her shoulder span, Jyoti took to pen renderings and charcoal again. “I was used to working on bigger canvases but since I couldn’t lift my arm too much, I had to be content with working on a smaller scale. I started with a slag piece and then turned to coal and soon the whole idea was there, taking shape.”

Talking about Coal’I’fied,’ she says, “It is not an exhibition of just one style or medium. It is a story that I want to tell — of what life is like out there in coal-mining towns and I have tried to capture that in my work. I just want to showcase that coal is a medium that is close to my heart and offers a glimpse of life around coal.”

“The theme of my work is coal — the landscapes, the people, vehicles used in the fields and more.”

A piece by artist Jyoti C Singh Deo

A piece by artist Jyoti C Singh Deo
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

More than 55 canvases of varying sizes using mixed media such as acrylics, charcoal on paper, ink on paper, ink on canvas and dry pastels as well as five installations, will be on display at Coal’I’fied. “I can use any medium as long as I’m portraying the theme of coal.,” she says, adding that she expresses herself best with coal.

‘Coal’I’fied’ by Jyoti C Singh Deo will be on display at Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath from June 17 to 20.



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