Painter Arpana Caur talks about how Punjabi myths and folklore fuel her art
The art of eminent painter Arpana Caur is awash with the colours of Punjab; the literature,legend and folklore of the land emerge in her series on Guru Nanak and Sohni-Mahiwal. On a visit to Chandigarh for a seminar on folk art and literature organised by the Saarc Foundation,Arpana says,During the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh,a number of Pahari artists accepted his patronage,and the plains of Punjab in Lahore,Patiala and Amritsar became home to a flourishing art scene. After Ranjit Singh,Patiala became a centre of patronage. Many religious documents were painted too,most famous being the Janam-Sakhi,a compilation of episodes of life of Guru Nanak. It saddens me that not many in Punjab are aware of the unique heritage of Punjab.
Her talk revolved around her own efforts to not only preserve,but also share the art from the region with a larger audience. Arpana and her mother,award-winning writer Ajeet Caur,have set up the Academy of Fine Arts and Literature in Delhi,which houses a collection of 250 miniature paintings and books. Another larger museum showcases their collection of 1,000 folk and tribal paintings and sculptures. These all are documented in the book Magic Makers. I have personally designed the book,sitting at the press for months on end to supervise over the printing. The book includes prints of my familys art collection of more than 25 years, says Arpana,turns over the pages of the book which has become a collectors item.
The collection includes artefact from Egypt,Turkey and Cambodia among others. Theres a treasure waiting to be discovered in the field of art. Through this book and also the Magic of Indian Miniatures,we want to reach to a larger audience, says Arpana. During the talk,she added that the revised edition of the Magic of Indian Miniatures also reproduces a wide range of Indian miniature paintings as well as a rich section of miniatures from the plains of Punjab. The section is divided into two parts,Punjab and Sikh painting and Janam-Sakhi.
My work on Guru Nanak is special,and I have kept aside a Nanak and a Sohni for the Chandigarh museum,which has my paintings,though I wish the collection would be updated, says Arpana. The painter is also closely associated with many ecological projects in Punjab,as well as the building of a langar hall Guru Ka Bagh,in a Gurudwara in Sultanpur Lodhi where Guru Nanak spent more than 16 years. What I earn from my Nanak paintings and art,goes back to Punjab and for the arts, signs off Arpana.