Modern Sikh Artists Celebrate the Role of Faith in Everyday Life

Many Sikh artists are influenced deeply by their faith....

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When Sikh artists, Amrit and Rabindra Kaur Singh were asked to recreate Liverpool’s coat of arms in 2007, their main aim was to marry traditional and modern styles while telling the story of an 800-year-old seaport that became the second city of the British Empire. Their watercolor painting contained a witty, sometimes comical, always profound array of subjects and symbols, including one symbol that is often used in Sikh poetry: that of a swan.

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This graceful animal, which took the place of the original coat of arms’ Liver Birds, can be found in the words of the Guru Granth Sahib, where a swan picking up pearls is a symbol of good deeds. The swan’s actions represent discrimination and the ability to choose what is right. The Singh sisters are just two of many Sikh artists who, despite varying greatly in their styles and subjects, often introduce elements of faith into their unforgettable artworks.

Baljinder Kaur and the Importance of Family

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Sikhs are encouraged to care for and protect their family unit and to nurture children for the benefit of creation. People of faith are meant to provide for their children, teach them Sikh values, and share respect and equality. The work of Baljinder Kaur captures the beauty of family life to perfection, with colorful depictions of family members spending time together reading, singing, and taking part in other creative pursuits.

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The almost childlike quality of these works make excellent subjects for recreation by parents alongside their children since images of teddy bears, fireplaces, and children abound. If you wish to create this type of painting with your loved ones, start by honing the basics of drawing eyes, then faces, and bodies, paying heed to proportion, perspective, and color. It is important to capture the basic shapes that go into sketching features like the eyes, but also to imbue these features with personality and depth, so that, as in Kaur’s works, your subjects seem to ‘smile from within’.

Harjinder Singh Sunner

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The work of Harjinder Singh Sunner often features human beings spending time in nature, amidst lush trees, colorful landscapes, and curious wildlife. Sikh people value ecology greatly and the color green symbolizes many good things in life - including wealth, intelligence, and good fortune.

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Even though some paintings are set in the nighttime, the moon and stars illuminate the imagery so that a sense of enlightenment is always present. As the artist stated in his Instagram page, “The lamp is lit in the darkness; all are saved in this Dark Age of Kal Jug, through the One Name and faith in the Dharma.”

Keerat Kaur

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This artist creates ultra-realistic portraits, sometimes displaying the part that suffering plays in the human condition and at others bridging the divide between reality and dreaming. Kaur’s surreal works are inspired by the richness of Sikh literature and Punjabi folklore - subjects she pursues in paintings, sculptures, hand embroidery, and many other art forms.

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Her works seek to bring audiences closer to Sikh literature, with paintings such as The Valour of The Young Princes II (2021)  speaking of key literary moments - in this case, the Battle of Chamkaur, in which Guru Gobind Singh’s young sons were martyred. Storytelling has always been a key way to hand values down from generation to generation, something that Kaur’s art masters to perfection. 

Many Sikh artists are influenced deeply by their faith. Balnínder Kaur’s naif representations, Harjinder Singh Sunner’s symbolic works, and Keerat Kaur’s surreal masterpieces all relay key aspects of Sikh life in different ways. The importance of family, nature, and Sikh literature all find their ways into pieces whose beauty capture the heart and mind in an instance.

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