While some cars are substantially more artistically disposed than others, they are all, nevertheless, products of design. The art in a car may be in the form of gorgeous curves (cue, the Jaguar E-Type), perfect angles (cue, the Lamborghini Countach) or astonishing practicality (cue, the original Mini Cooper). Cars are inherently works of art, which makes them ideal subjects for art.
Automotive art serves to record, often in a slightly surreal fashion, the world of the motor car. It serves to record the beauty of the Alfa Monza along with its greasy-faced, begoggled racer, or the elegance of the Ferrari GTB 275 being admired by a lady in an equally elegant evening gown. Automotive art is about finding beauty in the juxtaposition of cars and myriad surroundings.
To that extent, a recent exhibition in Mumbai was quite the visual treat. In the small niche of Indian automotive art, Vidita Singh has carved out a discernible space for herself. Using a variety of mediums such as oil on canvas, charcoal and watercolour, Vidita’s first solo exhibition in Mumbai put some of her finest artwork on display.
Vidita Singh hails from the royal family of Barwani, an erstwhile royal kingdom in Madhya Pradesh. Her father is the renowned automotive historian and restorer, Rana Manvendra Singh, and thus, it isn’t a big surprise that she grew up in an environment dotted with cars of the exotic variety. Over the years, she has translated the deep appreciation for cars that has been imbibed in her to automotive art.
The general theme at this exhibition was the juxtaposition of vintage and classic cars against backgrounds most appropriate for their glory days. While some of these have been inspired by scenes actually witnessed by the artist, others are a figments of her vivid imagination.
Cadillac Speeding, in my opinion, was one of the best works on display. It features a 1954 Cadillac Eldorado cruising on a sunny day on a road flanked by lush greenery. Motion has been captured beautifully in this painting, with the greenery reduced to flakes lost in movement, and the driver’s face smudged as he whisks by. The painting is so realistic that you may just feel the breeze as the car speeds past.
Another impressive oil on canvas was the Jodhpur Delahaye. One of the artist’s personal favourites, the painting focuses on a tight crop of the car’s front, viewed obliquely. This allows her to capture the most striking essence of its beauty – its tight radius curves. The gleam of the chrome, something also visible in Cadillac Speeding, seems to be something of the artist’s specialty.
Lancia at a Polo Match juxtaposes a classic Lancia and a polo field dotted with polo players on horsebacks. The painting evokes times of yore, when princes would drive to polo matches and park their bespoke cars on the sidelines of the resplendent turf. The intricate detailing of the Lancia’s dash is something to look out for.
With the backing of the Gaekwad Art Foundation, run by Pratap and Praggyashree Gaekwad of the Baroda royal family, Vidita is in a unique position to be at the forefront of the automotive art scene in India. You can check out more of her work on her website