History of Punjabi Art: by Sohan Qadri part 2 of 4 with (English Sub-Titles)

History of Punjabi Art: by Sohan Qadri part 2 of 4 with (English Sub-Titles)


Did this art flourish any further during the Sikh regime under Maharaja Ranjit Singh? There was a Sikh School of Art. That’s how it was known. There were artists in the court of Maharaja Ranjit. By then the British had arrived in central India. Artists, those used to work in the Mughal Courts such as Emperor Akbar, as Court’s artists… The British didn’t understand our art. They took it very long to get it. Then they went to Punjab, where it was that Sikh School of Art. The paintings and murals done inside the court/residential dwellings and the fresco therein gives the glimpse of the history. It got more refined and when it was a commotion there, the school was moved to Himachal which was also Punjab It was all Punjab till Kullu. I would call it a Punjabi, though it’s called a Pahari school. If the mountain area belonged to Punjab, the school would too The hilly art form that they call it came from Basoli (Kathua) the Chamba style, Kangra style, it has no parallel in the Mughal art. That’s what is my subject. It was the gist of the Indian art, the most refined that flourished in Kangra and it reached a threshold. It is known as the Miniature School of Art / Pahari School of Art. It too was in Punjab. All of this, as I told you, started 6500 years ago in Punjab, and is still continuing. Many came and many went away. We learnt this art from someone and imbibed it. These art schools which were formed, do exist in history and in the museums. Did this art progress any further during the British rule? As I told you, the British didn’t understand our art. They tried to reject it by terming it to be a craft. The wiser artists went to Hindu Kings, or Sikh Emperor like Ranjit Singh, Hindu King, Sansar Chand of Kangra. The Kings recognized the talent of the artists and patronized them. The British just discarded them after the Mughals were defeated. They were just plunderers, who had no interest in art. Hindu Kings retained, whom the British had expelled. Despite all that pressure, the art school kept on going in Kangra. I am just talking about the things 100 years ago. Now we come to the modern era, what was the progress in Punjab, who were the prominent contributors? The classical art such as miniature, Gandhara the primitive art starting from Mohen jo Daro it is a series till modern art. Art never jumps (passage of time) Man didn’t come into existence today, but thousands of years ago. That gene still carries on. That gene passed through Kangra School, Sikh School Mughal School, Persian influence the Gandhara School That is still going on. Its form changes (with time) but the shape remains the same. The essentials and content are the same. So many experiments are done in art. I myself is an experimental artist. You will be glad to know that the first person to experiment with art in the advanced art was a Punjabi girl, Amrita Shergil. She was born in Hungary and studied in Paris and this Sikh girl painted at the Golden Temple. She died very young. The contributions to modern Indian art, the history of my subject starts with Amrita Shergil. It doesn’t start from Tagore, excuse me. Tagore has a smaller gallery at the National Gallery of Modern Art whereas Amrita Shergil has a bigger one in Delhi’s Jaipur House. Amrita Shergil created a new image out of Europe’s advanced art. She learnt the technique there. The subject matter were cots, low knit stools, and the religious singers She has created a marvellous art. I was impressed with her art. Not only me, people from south India, Bombay, Delhi, Bengal also got impressed. The earlier school they had, which is called the Bengali School of Art, that was more lyrical and lacked power. Punjabi art always has power and vigour. We have intense hot and cold weathers. We have too much sunshine and too much rain, and it gets extremely cold. We have deserts and vegetation too. We are born in such contrasts around us which gives us that strength. and makes the spine of culture, stronger. In that strength lies the vigour. While studying in Simla, I used to say, Punjab’s artist should have vigour and courage he should be hot and should be cool Amrita Shergil had all of that. Many artists are following Amrita and you were impressed too. What would say about the calendar art in Punjab? I would say, the Bengali School of Art has degenerated. Some of our artists had gone to Calcutta. The film industry started there. It was the start of film posters and calendars. The art there got degenerated into the market art or calendar art. It got popular, as commoners started to comprehend it, and they started to believe it to be the only art, that’s how it got popular. The point I have an issue with is that it stopped the ‘advancement of the thought’. There were calendars in my house at Chachokee, in your house also, there were calendars, which was one’s only exposure since childhood. How would one get out the calendar art, even a literate Punjabi won’t know about Amrita Shergil whereas she is considered as the mother of modern art in India and many Punjabis don’t know her. They know Sobha Singh more, because he painted calendars. Now, calendar conveys a message, it doesn’t convey any spiritual message it is very quick and emotional, but falls down soon For me, art should be forever. It should have such a strength, vigour, vitality that when hung on a wall, it should remain alive. Evergreen. Calendar means a story. But art story has started from Mohen jo Daro. Story of art had started with the cave man. Even when there weren’t any stories, no language language evolved out of the art Whatever we know about people, we do so through the relics of art that we have found. If tomorrow, calendars are found, people would believe that calendars were a culture in Punjab. I had been against it and many of us had jointly started a crusade against it. I do it even now. I am not against it. I say that this is not art. A calendar is a calendar and painting is a painting. We would carry on this talk in the next episode of the program and we would like to show your paintings You had been very kind in coming to the studio and telling our viewers about what art really is. Its necessary to have a background of the history. If you don’t know about your village, with whom would I connect then where are your roots, root means your genes or seeds Everyone wants to know about the tree, know about the seed as the tree was once there. I am glad to know about how strong is the Punjabi art. It is imbibed in everything we do. I once again thank you. Thank you.

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