Seher Shah and Randhir Singh

'Studies in Form'

Studies in Form is a collaborative body of work by Seher Shah and Randhir Singh. Consisting of six portfolios with 121 prints in total, the series examines modernist architecture through the medium of the cyanotype, an early photographic process and precursor to the blueprint. Shah and Singh’s interdisciplinary approach to architectural history combines photography, printmaking, and drawing to isolate specific elements of buildings and analyze architectural principles of scale, materiality, and mass. By abstracting form, Shah and Singh scrutinize the built environment and offer a compelling expansion of the canon of modernism.

Signature image for Seher Shah and Randhir Singh exhibition
Seher Shah and Randhir Singh, "Studies in Form, Akbar Bhavan (#11)," 2018, cyanotype print on Arches Aquarelle paper, edition of 5, 22 x 30 in. Courtesy of the artists and Green Art Gallery, Dubai.

Mining their personal archive, the artists culled photographs of concrete architecture constructed across multiple cities in the 1960s and 1970s, focusing on four unique buildings: Akbar Bhavan (1969), New Delhi, by Shivnath Prasad; Barbican Estate (1976), London, by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon; Dentsu Head Office (1967), Tokyo, by Kenzō Tange; and Brownfield Estate (1970), London, by Ernö Goldfinger. By fragmenting images of these buildings, Shah and Singh dissect their forms in an attempt to represent the experiential and poetic qualities of their spaces, reappraise their modernist social aspirations, and reflect their respective contexts. Two additional portfolios, Flatlands Blueprints and Hewn Blueprints, evoke architectural plans and elevation drawings, transforming technical methods of conveying structure into expressive woodcuts that serve as a counterpoint as well as a potential starting point for a future architectural imaginary. Together, the compelling works in this exhibition demonstrate the influence of the built environment on our daily existence and reveal how interventions into our surroundings can spark inspiration and change.

About the artist

Seher Shah (b. 1975, Karachi, Pakistan) dedicates her practice to drawing, printmaking, and sculpture, positioning the intimacy of the hand, through mark-making, as a source of curiosity, research, and experimentation. In her work, Shah explores ideas of tradition in architectural and perspective drawing; contested relationships among history, objects, and time; and the relationship between poetry and abstraction. Using methods of drawing, etching, photogravure, and woodcuts in works on paper, as well as sculptural studies in cast iron, she speaks to the poetics of and fractures in how we view the landscape, intimately, through history. Shah has engaged in long-term collaborative exchanges with architectural photographer Randhir Singh and the Glasgow Print Studio. She received her B.F.A. and B.Arch from the Rhode Island School of Design. Her works are held in the collections of prestigious institutions including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Queens Museum, New York; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Tate Modern, London; Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai; Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi; and Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna, among others.

Randhir Singh (b. 1976, New Delhi, India) received his B.A. and B.S. from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. He spent 15 years working as an architect in New York while studying photography at the International Center of Photography. In 2013, he moved to New Delhi to develop his photographic practice, focusing on architecture and urbanism. Singh’s work has been exhibited most recently at The Museum of Modern Art in New York in The Project of Independence: Architectures of Decolonization in South Asia, 1947–1985. For the exhibition, he was commissioned to produce a substantial portfolio of photographs of modern architecture in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, providing a contemporary perspective on a culture of modern architecture at a time of significant progressive societal transformation. Singh has also exhibited at PHOTOINK in the two-person show IIT Delhi: A Modernist Case Study with the late Madan Mahatta, exploring the role of the photographer in relationship to architecture, history, and time; in the exhibition When Is Space? at Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur, investigating socialist housing typologies, modernism, and national identity; at Pondy PHOTO and in the exhibition Body Building at the Ishara Art Foundation, Dubai, probing the relationship between industrial architecture and the urban landscape; and in the traveling exhibition Yamuna River Project, examining waterways and hydraulic architecture. Singh has collaborated with artist Seher Shah on numerous projects combining photography, architecture, and drawing.

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Studies in Form is organized by SCAD Museum of Art chief curator Daniel S. Palmer.

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