An artist’s journey to try and make the world a better place
Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted the world to be a fairer place, a kinder place for everyone. Reality however, paints a bitter picture — one that I’ve struggled with my whole life.
It makes me wonder: How many of us can look away from a child begging on the street? How can we not care knowing that they haven’t eaten for days? How does it not bother us that they work in restaurants and homes, when they should be studying (and even playing) instead? Why is it okay for our watchmen, drivers and cleaners to be working in the same place for decades with hardly any increase in their pay? What about their progress? Is there any? Is denying this progress not an injustice?
After studying design at Delhi College of Art and designing websites for many years, I decided to go back to painting; first, as a portrait artist and then a figurative artist. Then, I moved on to the chaotic landscapes that dotted the cities I lived in, depicting the contrasts. A visual tsunami of cityscapes slowly gave way to abstract earthy landscapes.
It has taken me 20 years to finally come home. To understand who I am.
I always gave to charity, a percentage of what I made from every painting sold, and started donating my work to raise money at art auctions for different causes. But I always felt it was never enough.
In May, 2011, my entire life changed, for the second time. My mother was diagnosed with a very rare cancer and was given a few months to live. Vulnerability is a strange, cataclysmic thing. Everything slowed down. That day, I chanced upon two articles in the newspaper. The first article was that of 30,000 tonnes of grain being thrown away because they had rotted due to poor storage facilities. The second was of 15 farmers who committed suicide leaving behind their wives and children. So, I turned to art again to try and make sense of everything — the contradictions of hunger and abundance, two sides of the same coin.
Then I got involved with charities which worked on water harvesting and protecting seeds banks. My installations were a medium through which I could convey my dismay and helplessness at the situation. Again, it was not enough.
Now, I am in the process of setting up an art foundation, The Barkhat Art Foundation where local artists will work closely with international artists and their primary focus will be the land. We will not just create art but get involved in reforestation projects and rainwater harvesting systems.
Life has ups and downs for all of us. Yet, many of us have a safety net. But there are millions who have to leave their families and children and live in far off places just so that they can feed them. Millions who can’t afford to stay at home if they fall sick or treat a loved one in a hospital without incurring huge debts. Millions who don’t have access to simple food and clean water. There is a lot to be done.
Movements can be game-changers. I was inspired by the work that Archana and Amit Chandra and Venkat Krishnan do, and so today I stand with them to say that I will donate 50% of the money I earn from my art in my life time, and I am privileged to have the opportunity to do so.
Revati Sharma Singh is an artist and activist, and a #LivingMyPromise signatory
The views expressed are personal