Kids Corner


The Colours of Sikhi



Have you ever wondered what a shabad looks like when it is translated into a drawing? Ever pondered over the visualization of a Gurmukh's mystical energy? Ever contemplated the historical architecture of Hargobindpur?

These are just a few of the drops in the vast ocean of Gagandeep Singh's visual imagination.

He is a New Delhi-based artist who is featured in June 2007 as the Artist of the Month by The Times of India Group [see link below].

He conveys his totality of being through "visual letters of the past and present". It is as if his life journey to date prepared him to unearth the essential pieces of his artistic heart: Sikhism and drawing.

He has fused these two segments together into a primary organ, pumping out a creative energy so inspirational, so blissful, and so meaningful that his moment-to-moment existence overflows with learning and discovery.

The alchemy of enrolling in art classes, reading Sikh history, taking Amrit, visiting art galleries, reciting the bani, and leaping out into the unknown, led Gagan to pen, ink, and paper: a life defined by art and spirituality.

Gagan states, "Everything today seems to be weighed down by the temporality of things; people have so much to say about life, but it is mostly depressing, vague, confusing and fantasy-like. I explore Sikh history and spirituality in my work, and it helps me remain crystal clear. It's as if it has become as necessary as air and water."

Gagan approaches each idea as a visual storyteller. He first takes photographs of his subject, and then draws numerous
sketches before he settles on a final design. He then combines text, other images, and even symbols, to balance the composition of the piece. As a rule, he lets the vision materialize on its own, without pre-determining the outcome.

"I never try to envision the final result, because then it would become too boring for me. So I keep on changing the line quality, the form, and especially the theme, to allow for variations as they emerge."

Boredom, he says, is a signal to take a break from the piece and exchange fresh ideas with other artists, spend time at an art gallery, or travel to new territory in his imagination in order to keep his work captivating.

"It's like an ECG (electrocardiogram) of the mind ... it's as if I see my mind poured on paper. This process of creating art is so unique and special for me. I feel it's a life-long process. So, I draw for the sake of drawing and to enjoy the sheer pleasure of it, and nothing more."

Because Gagan cannot predict where any given image will go before it reaches completion, an inherent trust develops between the artist and his art.

"Every image generates a level of mystery, suspense, energy, vibration, pleasure. It holds a level of beauty and satisfaction. It's very personal. Sometimes I can create a drawing at one go, at other times, it might take several weeks. It's all about my being honest to my work.

"I have personally discovered that I first need to put in a lot, only then something worthwhile comes out. And so, if I am not true to my theme, I can easily see the difference between works where I have created or discovered something new and works where I have merely replicated an earlier technique. I discard these latter pieces, or go back to them later to do them full justice."

He remains true to Sikhism as his subject matter and finds himself with an unlimited source of themes, ranging from Sikh history to Sikh architecture to verses from the bani.

In contrast to his current journey as an artist, Gagan was on the fast track to a business career in 1998, when he put together a telecommunications company in New Delhi, India.

Like so many artists, Gagan was dissuaded from pursuing art professionally in his earlier years.

"My parents always wanted me to head into business, because they found art irrelevant and out of context within the day-to-day realities of life. In other words, I was told that I could dabble in art, but only as a hobby."

Following his parent's wishes, Gagan had every intention of running the company, but found himself drawn to art galleries,  exhibitions and art classes.

"One has to be able to justify the need to switch from being a businessman to the life of an artist. There was a constant struggle within - ‘Is there a need to paint?' ‘Does painting meet a deeper need?'"

In addition to this constant internal questioning, the culture of corruption in New Delhi's business world compounded Gagan's urge to express his inner feelings. But instead of accepting the corruption, like so many businessmen feel compelled to do, Gagan decided to draw his way out of them, literally: by depicting images of injustices towards the common man, and the recent atrocities committed against the Sikh minority in India.

Gagan knows that the contemporary Indian art market has little interest in Sikh art, but that does not detract him from the deep loyalty he has towards Sikhism as his personal muse. It inspires him. 

And with that devotion and perseverance has come an international following from across the Sikh diaspora, and wide-spread expressions of interest in and praise for his work.

Gagan has a living, breathing relationship with his art and it, too, remains true to him.

"Drawing opens up sensitive levels of the mind. You feel you are as strong as steel. It strengthens your foundations if you keep at it, day after day. As a result, the external world (people, galleries, critics) does not affect you."


For more on Gagandeep Singh's art:

For info on Artist of the Month (June 2007)  -  Gagandeep Singh:

Conversation about this article

1: Sadhana Kaur (Los Angeles, U.S.A.), June 06, 2007, 9:52 AM.

I really like Gagandeep's play with different tints and hues. It's both daring and new in the depiction of Sikh iconography, and therefore welcome as a breath of fresh air.

2: Farid Kaur (Vancouver, Canada), June 06, 2007, 10:28 AM.

Would love to see Gagandeep try his hand at using more women in his paintings, and in portraying Sikhs overall in current, day-to-day situations. A kind of a slice-of-life series.

3: Jim Singh (Toronto), June 11, 2007, 12:23 AM.

I think Gagandeep is a Gurmukh who is doing his bhakti through art and he will meet Satguru throug this form of bhakti.

4: Satwinder Singh (Dublin, Ireland), August 13, 2007, 2:03 PM.

It's really inspiring to see the love Gagandeep Singh has for the arts, and on top of it, he decided to express his love through depiction of the Sikh way of life ... a wonderful seva in itself. May his love continue ... forever!

5: Jassi Singh (Moga, Punjab), January 03, 2012, 3:03 AM.

I like this article.

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