Painting a new beginning

Strap: A trip to Prague opened the doors of imagination for Delhi-based artist Reena Singh

Painting a new beginning

Arushi Chaudhary

Leaving the comfort of the familiar to turn over a new leaf is always daunting. ‘I am too old for this’, ‘It’s too late now’, ‘I wish I had done it sooner’... are the common refrains we hear ever so often. Breaking away from these inhibitions, Delhi-based artist Reena Singh has not only dared to pick up the paintbrush after a hiatus of 20 years but also put up her first exhibition at the age of 57. 

The exhibition titled Wanderers ran to an overwhelming response at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi from December 26 to 30 and comprised a mix of watercolour paintings by Reena, photographs by Ina and sculptures by Yuvraj. 

Talking about how the exhibition came about, Reena says, “My husband, Ina, friend Yuvraj and I had been thinking about putting our works on display for a long time. One day, we were having lunch together and decided it was time to act on our plan. On a whim, we went to the India Habitat Centre and booked the venue for this exhibition. This was almost two years ago. As the India Habitat Centre is a sought-after cultural hub, they only had a slot available for Dec 2018. As the date grew closer, I felt extremely nervous about my decision to display my works at this age and sceptical about the response my paintings would receive. So, I channelised all this energy into creating pieces of art that spoke my heart and to my heart.”

“The response has been overwhelming. People would just walk into the gallery and spend time around my paintings. The general consensus was that these paintings exuded a sense of warmth and positivity, and that to me has been the most rewarding takeaway from this experience,” Reena adds. 

Playing with warm hues of aqua, turquoise, blue, dotted with plants, vines and bougainvilleas, Reena has put together 20 paintings depicting doors and windows inspired by her travels across Europe and Iran. “This collection revolves around doors that I have seen during my travel through Portugal, Prague, Croatia and Iran. When I travel, I prefer exploring the obscure cobblestone streets and old square to the usual tourist spots, and it was through these explorations that I came across different architectural structures, each unique in its identity and with a story to tell. That’s why, I chose doors — old doors, wooden doors, doors framed in lush bougainvilleas, doors in vibrant colours — to bring to life my experiences as a wanderer,” Reena says.

And what motivated her to put up this exhibition after all these years? “Fulfilling the responsibilities that come with adult life and parenting, somewhere my commitment to paint took a backseat. Even though I did paint every now and then and sold a few pieces too, I wasn’t doing it as often as I would have liked. It was on a trip to Prague that I found myself on a street full of restaurants. In between the restaurants was one tiny, unusual looking door. I took my chance and walked in to find a woman painter’s studio. We struck up one of those conversations that change a life. She was in her 50s and had quit a full-time career to paint. She told me: ‘Don’t wait for the right time. If you love to paint, make time for it now,’” Reena replies.

Her maiden exhibition has received rave responses and the artist has sold many a piece. How has that influenced her plans for future? “I’m definitely motivated to paint more after this overwhelming response. However, it is too early to commit whether there’ll be another exhibition anytime soon,” she replies.


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