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Still life... and moving!

New Delhi sees the first-ever exhibition of cartoons exclusively on painting by Harinder Singh. RANA A. SIDDIQUI speaks to the cartoonist who bemoans the monopoly of political cartoons in the country... .

Brush with fun... Harinder Singh.

A BURQA clad woman, with only her eyes showing out of her veil is being portrayed by an artist, inside an all doors-closed room. Suddenly to the artist's surprise, she screams, "Please draw the curtains. My eyes are naked!"

An exhibition of human figures titled `The Human Touch' is drawing huge crowd. A visitor thanks (!) the artist. "Your exhibition theme is quite appropriate. Somebody has picked my wallet!"

And New Delhi's Academy of Fine Arts and Literature is also drawing a huge crowd for a rib-tickling experience for the first time through cartoons on the painting fraternity. Here Harinder Singh, a 49-year-old, Delhi-based cartoonist is displaying 23 works on the subject.

Some are brash, some persuasive, some just mocking in a lighter vein. They are art viewed by a layman, some more or less understood like abstract art and instillations and some simply remarked on. The artist uses largely pastels shades and lucid, fine lines for neat effect. "Art galleries have light colour walls and floors mostly," he justifies.

Earlier an adman, Singh has also been working in some established newspapers as a cartoonist. Why cartoons only on the painting world? "Because most of the cartoons in our country are made around politics only. We don't realise that there is much more than politics here that can be talked about," he reasons.

Singh's creations seemingly have a series of topics; say installations, public/ abstract art, reaction of a layman and a family member to a work of art and even vegetables! Take this as sample, an Arab thanks his wife earnestly as he witnesses a pipe in his studio, "It's very sweet of you to tag a pipe line for my oil paintings!" Smartly associating Arab with oil? Suggestion from a kid to his father, to use dry pastels instead of watercolour, as water scarcity is alarming! A lady witnessing a grave in an art gallery tells her mother, "It is called still life."

Greatly inspired by the late Mickey Patel, Singh is less hopeful about the status and future of cartoonists in India. "It's bleak," he says, "we don't have more than 10 established cartoonists in 10 newspapers and most of them are political cartoonists. Others are just struggling to make a career while abroad, a cartoonist is well-received and well paid."

Most of the Indian publications hire foreign cartoons strips as Beatle Belly, Hagger the Locker etc "because it is inexpensive but they don't realise that Indian masses identify themselves most with the cartoons of Indian origin. It's time we woke up to our own reality and stop buying ideas," he says.

And he has a suggestion too, "If you want to produce a cartoon, go beyond politics and business. Refer to general life humour."

All set to translate his works into a book, Singh is trying to find some publishers abroad.

The exhibition is on till this coming Saturday.

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