Singulart Artist Focus – Deepa Khanna Sobti on painting and poetry

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Could you briefly present yourself and your artistic singularity?

As a person I would describe myself as a thinker and someone who is wholly and completely in love with life. After a rough start with a rather traumatic childhood and fairly troubled teenage years which were generally quite full of fear, my brain had a few breakthroughs, the first of which occurred at the at the age of seventeen. Fortunately a capacity to question the framework of suffering was starting to develop at an extremely fast pace alongside the experience and habitual response to the trauma itself. This released tremendous energy which was trapped in earlier patterns of constant heavy responses to stimuli and paved the way for refreshing new ways of thinking. This was the beginning of the surfacing I believe of what this mind and body was best programmed to do, which in my case is a love for nature, color, music and the ability to see perspective beyond localized and narrow thinking. It also brought forth the ability to see beauty in everything and fostered what can only be described as an absolute love affair with life itself.

My art style is a direct reflection of this thinking pattern. I did not study art formally and although I attended a few hobby classes in art, I am largely a self taught artist.

You have multicultural roots and live in a very vibrant city – how does this influence your work?

I think it is hard to directly measure this. However, the constant travel and change in place of residence exposed me to differing cultures, religions and constantly changing topographies. I grew up in India and my father was in the army so we moved home every year or two. I was fortunate enough to experience India’s tremendous natural beauty and cultural and spiritual depth. I then moved to Hong Kong at the age of 26 and lived there for 11 years. I find Hong Kong to be one of the most vibrant and alive cities in the world. I have now been living in Singapore for the past 11 years and I think Singapore’s gentleness and grace has given me the space and allowance to bring my art and philosophy to where it is today. I don’t think any other place would have been able to give me that.


The Personal And Universal Are One, 2015, oil painting on canvas, 70×90 cm

What fascinates you about abstraction and did you always paint abstract?

My love for abstraction was not something I was consciously aware of when I joined art classes and so in the initial years I painted realistic art with an emphasis on nature. However, I could not develop a real passion for realistic art. I started dabbling with abstraction outside of the classes on my own and enjoyed it immensely. There is tremendous freedom in the total loss of control that abstraction hinges on. I believe true abstraction can only come from a mind that has an ability to be able to sense the whole without seeing any individual parts. There is an absolute plunging into the unknown every moment. This style of art also ties in completely with my philosophy as well so I’m not surprised by my natural proclivity towards this art style.

You work with pallet knifes – do you change your technique from time to time? And how did your very unique style develop over time?

The palette knife is a fascinating tool since it is held differently from a brush or a pen or pencil, which due to repetitive use, unconsciously move towards already learned shapes and forms from memory. The palette knife draws more on spontaneity and pushes me to steer away from all that is known. It does not yield to much conscious control.

I very rarely have a plan or image for the work I start. I flow with whatever comes up without judgment and keep going until it is the eyes and not the mind that finally tell me that a piece is complete. I look for all overall balance and depth without any semblance of particularized form. My eyes seem to love the color black which inevitably seems to find itself into almost all my paintings.

I like to challenge my mind with more and more intricate color and shape interactions while still striving for overall balance without succumbing to predictability and form.

My paintings comprise several layers of thick oil paint. I prefer to work on linen due to its natural unprocessed graining.


No Way Out, 2016, oil painting on canvas, 70×90 cm

What have been the highlights of your artistic career? And do you have a vision of what your artistic future might look like?

I was not looking for a commercial or structured art career. My artist career started all by itself due to a chance meeting with a stranger in a coffee shop. She turned out to be an art fair organizer who offered me my first solo show at a prominent art fair in Singapore. The showing was very successful and I then exhibited in her art fair in London. Even my first art prize shortlisting happened quite by chance. In a brief period of just over four years since I had my first exhibition, I have won several art awards and have shown my art and poetry in over 25 exhibitions worldwide including in art galleries, private museums, Biennales and Art Fairs. The Confederation Of Art Critics London has published a book exclusively on my work which is available on Amazon UK.

I consider my journey as an artist and writer as an absolute gift since it has come about and flourished without any concerted effort on my part. To express my gratitude, I donate 75% profits from the sale of my works to six charities that I am closely associated with and have actively supported over the past 12 years or so.

I do not have any plans for how my artistic career should or will develop in the future. All I can say is that I love to paint.

You are also writing poems – how did you develop your interest in poetry and when did you start writing poems alongside your paintings? What comes first – the painting or the poem?

My avid interest in philosophy was fueled by many tumultuous experiences in my childhood which were not explained to my satisfaction by either religion, culture or science. This led to a personal investigation over several decades. I was able to give myself much more to this endeavor after 2000 when my daughter was born and I quit my job in the finance industry. I used to spend several hours everyday in this pursuit. There was a growing clarity in this area which blossomed about the time I moved to Singapore in 2007. I started writing poems as a celebration of this understanding and also as a way to try to express my understanding of truth simply and clearly for the benefit of others who may be in search of clarity.

The pairing of the poems with art was the idea of the art fair organizer who offered me my first show and I am grateful for her suggestion since it has been very well received.

I continuously write poems and there are now over 200 on my website. I pair them with the paintings after the painting is finished.

Outside All Sides, 2017, oil painting on canvas, 70×90 cm


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