Dayanita Singh is an artist who is both a novelist and a photographer, but is ultimately fascinated with stories and recounting them through both mediums. This retrospective contains both her books and photographs but it’s the images that draw the attention.
It’s clear that Singh has a great eye for composition and is able to create emotive scenes with black and white photography. Even when working in colour, it’s used sparingly such as industrial rooftops all in a shade of blue or night shots of a shanty town where only the interior lights pepper the shot.
Despite the often impressive individual photographs, it’s Singh’s ‘museums’ that are the highlight of this exhibition. The artist has taken folding bookcases and covered the outsides with photographs that are related to each other.
For example, the file museum is replete with pictures of bureaucratic offices in India stacked high with piles of paper. As is typical of Singh there is no story set out and it’s up to the viewer to decide what those papers might be and why they are all stuffed into a room.
There are similar museums dedicated to chance, little ladies and embraces all with related photographs that lay out a story but leave it to the imagination of the visitor to fill in the blanks. There are no books in any of these bookcases thus leaving an empty space to populate with your ideas. The museum of furniture was our favourite as Singh is able to imply loneliness with a single chair out of place caught in the light cascading through a window.
The novels and individual photographs in this exhibition don’t always hit the mark but the museums are the highlight and are worth exploring, full of intriguing images that serve as fodder for imaginative tales.
Dayanita Singh is on at Hayward Gallery until 15 December. Tickets are £11 for adults, concessions are available.