The Adventurer: Tiffany Singh

By Dionne Christian
Tiffany is a social practice artist focusing on the links between art, communities and wellbeing. Picture / Babiche Martens

Writing about artist Tiffany Singh feels bittersweet right now.

Bitter because Tiffany, 40, will leave New Zealand next year and travel via Thailand, Taiwan and India to live in London.

Sweet because before she departs, Tiffany participates in four significant projects: a solo show at Melanie Roger Gallery, set design for the Auckland Arts Festival theatrical epic Tea and a commission for Kaleidoscope: Abstract Aotearoa for the opening of Te Papa's new art Gallery, Toi Art, in March. She also has a work on display at Tauranga Art Gallery.

It means more of us will get a chance to see and appreciate the kind of art Tiffany makes and, in doing so, stop for a moment or two to shut out the busyness around us and contemplate what she is trying to accomplish.

Tiffany is a social practice artist focusing on the links between art, communities and wellbeing.

She uses the art she makes often created alongside community organisations and groups to examine and promote art as a way of fostering education, outreach, cultural preservation and empowerment.

Born and raised in Auckland of European, Indian and Pacific descent, Tiffany started her working life as a graphic designer but felt uncomfortable using her creativity to sell products so she went to Elam School of Fine Arts to study painting.

When the pupil is ready, the teacher appears; so it was for Tiffany when she met artist Max Gimblett who, as a Buddhist, spoke a lot about the spiritual in his work.

Encouraged by Gimblett, Tiffany headed to India ostensibly for three months but that turned into three years doing voluntary work in creative arts and fair trade.

“In the slums in India I spent ages creating a detailed mural for the kids to paint on the wall with donated paint, but that all went out the window when they got hold of the paint. They just wanted to play with it. The result was this amazing mass of colour. I realised it was actually about empowering them to reclaim their own space.”

The impact was twofold; Tiffany decided the process of making art is sometimes more important than the end results, and it also gave her the confidence to commit to Eastern philosophical traditions.

She once told the Herald that she aims to make works that are beautiful and magical by using scent and sounds that change the way a space feels: "People can just walk in, take a deep breath, unplug from the craziness of the modern

Western world and hopefully become more in tune with themselves and others.”

This year, the Arts Foundation recognised Singh by giving her one of its three New Generation Awards. She’ll put part of the money toward travelling to residencies in Thailand, Taiwan and India before heading to London where she aims to complete a Masters Degree in social practice arts. It’s an option that simply isn’t available to her here and she wants her two-year-old daughter, Sequoia, to experience other ways of living.

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