By Marc Levitt, August 2009
I first met Kavita Singh Kale when she was studying at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad and saw her work. I liked it immediately. While often representational, it also had a surreal quality. The images were dream like with colors that were bright, yet somewhat muddied, lending them an air of mystery. She explained that the particular work was the result of coming to terms with the death of a good friend. I was, as I said, attracted to her art, but now also, with the honesty and depth of her subject matter. This was in year 2002.
Luckily for us, Kavita Singh Kale has continued to maintain and refine her style and explore difficult subjects with the same courage I saw in NID. Her paintings, sculptures and films continue to be an exuberant stew of images floating in a world of her emotions, perceptions and intelligence. In paintings such as ‘Free Fall’, ‘Peace’, ‘Waiting Each Day’ and ‘Silence in Chaos’, they evoke archetypal power and universal themes through a very personal lens. For me, Kavita’s style calls up Chagall, Sendak, Dalí, Roberto Matta, the films of Buñuel and Fellini, the movie, ‘Brazil’ and the set of Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’. They tease, provoke, haunt and disquiet, rendering viewers happily absorbed in a joyful, celebratory and at times terrifying world that we quickly (if we have the courage to do so) recognize as our own. They are neither, ‘Eastern’ or ‘Western’, urban or rural, neither ‘real’ nor ‘surreal’, not from either the world of wakefulness or from the land of dreams. They inhabit an interstitial space, a place simply ‘between’ where one is both destabilized and oddly comforted. For a world of vanishing borders and porous identities, where polar ice caps melt and where for millions of refuges, ‘home’ has become a verb, Ms Kale is a visual poet, chronicling our response to a world in flux. It is of course appropriate that this poetry of transmutation comes from India where layers of history are visible on every street corner, mythology celebrates the unification of animal, human and god and where the Goddess of destruction is also is the Goddess of creation. Kavita Singh is an inheritor of these traditions, but with the soul and artistry of a 21st century woman for whom one’s nation of birth is but one part of her artistic DNA.