Studio Visit: Sonita Singwi


Today began with a great conversation with Artist Sonita Singwi. I am fortunate to have known Sonita for many years, as one of my fellow artists at The Can Factory. Walking into Sonita’s studio, my eyes flooded with color as my gaze was drawn to the vibrant color striped paintings on paper on the left side of her studio. 



Some of the “Stripe” paintings on paper (above) have creases defining irregular geometric planes, which create a subtle disruption of the vertical stripe pattern and shift the color values with the reflection of light.

My attention and perception shifted when I noticed the undulating planes erupting from the works on paper on the right side of her studio. These forms are completely devoid of painted color, but they vibrated with light and shadows cast from the studio windows.


Sonita eloquently communicated her practice during our conversation leading into topics that I have been tossing around in my mind as well. 

All of the work hanging in the studio are works on paper. Some employ gouache and Vinyl, others are naked, just molded, folded paper.


The white works on paper, relate to the torso and have direct references to the body, she mentioned that she spent time studying the suits of armor at the MET. #MetropolitanmuseumofArt.

I see associations with this reference-after I observe that the pieces stacked in columns- head, torso, legs. Three pieces high, body scale- now I want to climb into these forms. 


The geometric folds are balanced by the organic swells of paper, with qualities of balance and tension existing harmoniously in the same space.

These pristine, white works on paper present themselves to the viewer with a distinct sense of becoming something more. Sonita addressed these works as being in the process of evolution…..


Q/A. So- what are you curious about? I like to understand what artists are curious about- this does not always relate to what their work is about, but someway informs it.

Sonita is currently reading Robert Irwin’s book “Seeing is forgetting the name of what one sees”  #robertirwin Like Robert, she expresses a deep interest in issues of visual perception and is curious about how we perceive things in a digital age. “Our perception is shifting very quickly, in order to see things one has to take the time to see- we move through the world so fast- I think about how little I am absorbing and take for granted what is seen. I would like to slow that process down and explore how we experience painting – we don’t experience things in a rectangle, as fragments, in movement.”

Q/A. what are some of the questions you have that you try to address in the work? Artist who ask tough questions- also take risks.

We all ask ourselves questions while making our work, sometimes those questions are directed at the subject matter we are pursuing and sometimes our inner dialogue questions the very act of creating and why we are making the work. We may question the materials, the format, the formal elements, the habits we have, the techniques we employ and if these things are truly serving our purposes. These questions are either challenging us to push further into our work or they may paralyze us- freezing us into our familiar habits of making work.

“We carry so much history- it’s hard to give yourself that freedom and space to work. That space, that is that I really want- and not to put other stuff in it.”

Sonita’s practice is changing, she is questioning everything, challenging her tools, materials, process and form in order to get closer to the true nature of her work. She spoke with me about some of her motivations.

One of the highlights of our conversation centered around how the paint arrives to the surface and what level of control she wants to have over that arrival of pigment.

Is there a way for paint to find its own way to the canvas as a natural event? With the painter controlling the conditions that surround the mediums arrival but not directly applying it to the substrate? (Perhaps- this is a fantastical notion,  but it does speak about the painter’s belief in the material of paint to be embodied- to have a destination of it’s own that the painter must guide it to?)  Sonita asks these questions,”How can you get the paint to perform the way you want it to- as it interacts with the planes of the paper” Reflected color, soaked color, dripped color, projected color, color generated by environmental conditions, sprayed color….

After we discussed a variety of strategies to approach painting in dimensional forms, this lead to a discussion on methodologies and rule based systems. The comforts and restraints of having a defined subject matter or a systematic strategy of working that is a kin to a scientific method. Sonita does use “rules of limits” in her work: “I am thinking that on the one hand, limits can create greater freedom and deepen the work.  On the other hand the rules can become arbitrary.  In my case the stripes grew out of a series of landscape paintings that referenced Baroque paintings and photographic documents of the sky.  The sky paintings represent an effort to capture the transitory nature of our perception.”

“I feel the formed paper works are getting closer to that goal. The stripes afford me a  way to think about how we perceive color, light and form together, and they freed me of compositional concerns and representation.  Working from left to right or from top to bottom is actually liberating as it removes thinking.  Now the question is how to integrate color to the more complex forms. The strict limit of stripes may not be what is needed here.  That’s part of what I am rethinking…”

Our conversation was so on-point with many engaging issues of viewership, visual perception and dimension painting. I’ve invited her to visit my studio this month for a demo on using sprayed applications of paint.  Thanks Sonita!

Find out more about this artist at: White Columns


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