This week's installment in our series of stories featuring young Sikh artists whose work you may not have seen, throws the spotlight on Iminder Singh who hails from Bradford in the United Kingdom. His beautiful and uplifting artwork is inspired by Gurbani. He currently works in acrylics and watercolours.
Here is Iminder Singh's own introduction to his life and work:
I have always had the urge to create from a young age. My Mother tells me she too had the same passion whilst studying, so I guess it’s in the genes. I studied Art at school, but completely lost touch with it during University, and after graduating I got caught up in the rut of life and work. By occupation, I’m an IT professional.
In 2009, I felt the desire to pick up my brushes again, but I found that I kept making excuses and putting it off for some reason or another. However, after discussions with some close friends and family about this, I was hugely encouraged to create and share, so that is exactly what I did!
What inspires me? Well, simply, that Mysterious One that beholds us all. My work is mostly based around an inner journey, grasping those heart-searching thoughts and feelings that leave our senses Awe-inspired and Wonderstruck. Above all, I try to place the message of Love in Gurbani at the centre of my work.
I don’t class myself as an Artist, simply because I don’t know anything about being one. I have no qualifications, my tools are rugged, and my knowledge about the ‘Art World’ is limited. But after much inspiration from those around me, I’m here to share in what I seek, understand and create, and hopefully inspire others to do the same.
Here is a recent interview with Iminder Singh
Q. I understand that you have established a career in I.T., and that art is a career path you are currently pursuing, is it something that you have always wanted but not realised or was it something you chose earlier in your career but dropped the subject, and if so, for what reasons?
A. I have always enjoyed art from a very young age. I did have aspirations when I was younger of making a career out of it as I studied it at school for GCSE and A Level. However, as I matured and got older, two things occurred to me; one, I felt I wasn’t really good enough to make a successful career out of it and two, the market was saturated and making a decent a living was going to be difficult. So I decided that I would continue with art as a hobby when I was able to do so, but go down a more technical route in terms of further studies that would give me a stable career path.
[Note: Now that I have launched my website and my work is becoming a little more widely known, I still don’t have any solid career plans for my art. The reason being is that I don’t want money to become a distraction and take me away from doing art for the reason that I do it. And if I’m being absolutely honest, I don’t particularly enjoy the attention that my art brings sometimes, but I think being a little introverted has just been my nature from a young age.]
Q. Was it a difficult decision to make? What were the factors that made you rethink your career choice?
A. Looking back, I don’t think it was a difficult decision. I did consider it as a career option, but it wasn’t something I had my heart set on. When it came to choosing degrees to study at university, I was one of those who were undecided on a career path. Eventually, I decided to study a technical degree, which I knew would provide me with a progressive career path, not without hard work though. Art back then was more of a hobby than a career choice I think, and it was (and still is!) something that I really enjoyed doing in my spare time.
Q. How did you know that this would be right for you?
A. I have been fortunate that my career right now in that I.T. is progressing, and because I enjoy, and have been getting, the opportunity to learn new things. I am happy in that sense.
Thinking back, if I was to study Art at University and pursue a career in it, I would have been put off it. The reason being, I would have had to do things, follow a structure, and there would have been expectations of me to produce work. But art has, and I hope will always be, ‘my thing’ and I love being able to fall back on it whenever I need to, without expectations from others.
Q. On your website, you mention that you wanted to pick up your brush again, what inspired you to do this?
A. Initially, it was mostly comments like, “you should do more!” from friends and family that give me the initial nudge after I showed them some of my work from my school days. It was (and always has been) Gurbani and Keertan that gave me more of an inspiration and which was the idea for my first canvas piece in 2009. Above all, it was Guru Sahib’s Blessing that I was able to continue with this aspect of my life again.
In my work I like to express my personal feelings and learn about the teachings of the Sikh Gurus wherever possible, this gives me my purpose for making art because it helps me focus.
Q. Do you require reason behind your works, do you work conceptually, make or create on the go, without an agenda?
A. I always try to incorporate the message of Gurbani into my work (based on my limited knowledge and understanding) and I think this is exactly what gives my work life. Otherwise, it would just be some paint on a piece of paper without any meaning or substance.
My ideas most often sprout from reading or hearing a Shabad that I am able to visualize. The feelings sparked from reading/hearing Gurbani always influence this idea and image. After all, Guru Granth Sahib Jee is composed in several musical measures (Raags) that each infuse different feelings when sung in the proper measures. Gurbani itself is Paras Kalaa (Philosopher’s stone) so any form of reading, listening or singing (when done with concentration and intent) has an immediate effect on the mind, body, and soul.
So, to answer the question, I do require reason behind my work and I do work conceptually.
Q. What are three things about art that you have learned in the past year that have had the biggest impact on your work?
A. I haven’t picked up much in the ‘art world’ in the sense that I have learned a new technique or way of working, but there have been a few things which have impacted my work in other ways:
- Gurbani – Art can be seen in many forms, and not necessarily with just paint on canvas. Gurbani is pure love Art to me, the Artist being Guru Sahib. This will always have the biggest impact on my work.
- I previously only worked in acrylics but recently took the plunge to open myself to other ways of working. I’m now enjoying watercolors and I think the transition has definitely changed my style and approach.
- Art is very much a personal thing to me, and my work, even though it may not be obvious, reflects my mood, my thoughts and my feelings at the time of creating it. In the past, I have tried to go against this and have tried to produce work based on different thoughts and feelings, but I found that I wasn’t happy with what I produced. Therefore, I stick to whatever I feel and think at the time now of producing the art. This helps define the style and colours, etc. This is more natural to me and is how I work best.
Q. Where would you like to be with your art and career?
A. I think, right now, I don’t have any long term goals with my art, but this is probably something I should think about if I want it to progress.
One thing that I thoroughly enjoyed and that really satisfied me was being able to create art and then hold an auction and raise a substantial amount for charity (SOPW) This is definitely something I want to explore more. I have completed a piece for World Malaria Day and I hope to raise a good amount for this cause. In addition, I am hoping to auction some of my recent pieces around the "I Pledge Orange" movement to raise money for Sikh Prisoners.
Q. The Sikhi aspects within your work for me are inspirational and I continue to look towards artists that relate to the Sikh way of life (Rehet.) What is the most immediate goal you are trying to achieve with your artwork?
A. To share (with Vaheguroo’s Blessings) Guru Nanak Sahib’s revolution, the teachings of Sikhi and the message of Love-Gurbani at the level at which I have been able to grasp it in my life so far.
Q. How important is experimentation in your process?
A. I don’t really work with the thought of experimentation before I start work. However, I do think of different ways best to explore and show an idea on paper, and that mainly includes simple things such as size, ‘framing,’ colour and medium.
Experimentation comes as part of my work, if I want to ‘try something out,’ I don’t put time aside to specifically play with materials or techniques. When I get an idea, I am pretty clear about the result that I’m looking for and I think about ways of achieving it.
Q. What do you think the biggest hurdles are for you in your work in the next couple years?
A. Perhaps getting my work out there, and dealing with all the attention. I’m not someone who likes attention, which is why I initially limited sharing my work with only those who know me.
At the moment I want to do more charity work and auctions, as it gives me great satisfaction to create artwork that is used for a good cause.
Q. What do you do when you are feeling creative blocks? How do you overcome them?
A. I feel that being creative is something that can’t be forced, so I don’t see creative blocks or periods when I’m short of ideas to be an issue. My work would feel unnatural if I was to sit and think of ideas when I had a dry period. Instead I try to go with the flow and follow ideas as and when they come, mostly whilst listening or reading Gurbani. This feels the most natural way to me when it comes to creating art, and it fits well in my current life situation since I work full time.
Q. What are some things you do to allow yourself time and energy to focus so much on art?
A. Actually, I don’t get much free time to do art because of work and other commitments. But in terms of energy and focus, that comes from the desire to put my ideas onto paper! I usually paint after work and on the weekends when I can, and I tend to take two to four blocks of two to four hours each time to finish a piece. When I don’t get a lot of time, or if I have an idea sitting in my head for a while, then this just adds to my desire to find time to explore and produce something.
Q. What advice would you have to other artists looking to grow in their work and skills?
A. Be open, and don’t be afraid to put your work out there because art in its many forms appeals to people in so many different ways. Don’t forcefully change what you do in your work to suit others because not everyone will take a liking to, or appreciate or understand your work. So just accept this to be how it is and not as a deterrent.
Explore all avenues that come your way as it could open up lots of new opportunities for you. This is something that I have learnt and experienced especially after sharing my work more widely with the Sangat.
See more at Iminder Singh's Flikr Stream and also the passages from Gurbani that each painting is based upon.
Imminder Singh's Web site: ImminderArts
Come, Take Pity on Me
Singing in Basanth
Singing with Love
The Emergence of the True Guru Nanak
M.S and S.K.
Bhai Sahib Bhai Randheer Singh Jee
Please Come Into the Home of my Heart