How did you find out about the painting?
I happen to know the artist; we’re very good friends When I was stationed in the mountains, she came to visit with her mother. She would sit and meditate and do a lot sketches, so the series was conceptualized there. Then, when she returned, she went back to her studio and did the painting.
Guru Nanak points towards heaven
What drew you to this painting?
This painting is an oil on canvas from Arpana’s Guru Nanak series. It’s large, 4.5ftx6ft, and depicts the first guru of the Sikhs. I have about six of her works, but I found this compelling.
Where have you displayed it?
It’s in my sitting room at the moment. All my friends who visit my home want to take it away with them.
How much did you pay for the painting?
I took it off her in exchange for some work. She’s a friend, so I’m always rooking her of all her best pieces.
What is distinct about her work?
I collect old Sikh miniatures. Her work is contemporary, but it has the same idea as the miniatures. It’s her rendition of the guru, pointing his finger towards heaven with a symbolic river running through it. According to stories, he would travel all over the countryside, looking for places to meditate. The painting’s got an unearthly spirituality to it.
Are you drawn to it for its religious themes?
I’m not a practicing Sikh, but in my heart I feel that there are powers above and I do believe in meditation.
What type of art are you generally drawn toward?
All sorts, but I do love the Sikh miniatures. They are very old and have to be kept stored away, so the air does not cause them more damage. Of course, the miniatures were always meant to be stored, not to be put on display. You are meant to take them out from time to time and examine them and meditate over the images.
Where else can you see her work?
She’s displayed all over. At the Victoria Albert in London, the Bradford Museum at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC and at the San Francisco Museum of Art. Plus, she’s regularly auctioned off at Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Her output is low—she does about one or two works in a three month period. She has just gone through a bypass surgery and she’s working on a little piece that says “More time, please”.
Arpana Caur’s works are available at Saffronart.com, and range from Rs2.75 lakh to Rs10.75 lakh.
Melissa A. Bell