The novelty of “Mera Gobind” lies in the subject. For their canvas artists often take recourse to Indian philosophy and spiritualism; their metaphors mostly remain Krishna, Ganesha and Buddha. At times there is Sufism and Christian iconography too, but rarely do we come across artistic endeavours — except a few like Arpana Caur’s — inspired by the Sikh faith. Gurgaon-based artist A.S. Chitrak’s “Mera Gobind” is one such unique body of work, currently on display at AIFACS Gallery, Rafi Marg.
Huge canvases laden with rich colours portray the life of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and the last Sikh guru. Not in chronological order, the artist has simply picked up various episodes of the Sikh Guru’s life to highlight the philosophy he followed. “It is not about a particular religion but a philosophy. Every time with such work, the intent is to propagate and share the great thoughts and ideas of these people. I have created series like “Krishna and Manav Sambandh”, ‘Devi”, “Rudra”, “Ganesha” “Sufism” which shouldn’t be viewed from the lens of religion. My work is the interpretation of their philosophy which isn’t one man’s asset,” says Chitrak, an alumnus of Sir J.J. School of Arts, Mumbai.
The deep colours don’t drown the flowing figures bearing distinct expressions in each canvas. In the process they are only highlighted. Expressions hold forth especially in the work where Guru is seen being consoled by two pathans Nabi Khan and Gani Khan in the forests of Machchiwara in Punjab, after having successfully resisted the onslaught by Emperor Aurangzeb who had attacked the fortress of Chamkaur Sahib. In another work, Chitrak plays with his favourite colour blue to create a bewitching effect. The nihangs on horseback are in awe having spotted a falcon in the night. The falcon being Guru Gobind Singh’s pet becomes the metaphor of the Sikh Guru. “I read up a lot of Sikh literature, Guru Granth and a lot of other books but I didn’t take any references from Sikh miniatures because I wanted it to be a unique interpretation. In one work where the imagery has come from a Sikh miniature, it has been converted into a realistic rendition,” says the artist.
Giving an overview of Guru Gobind’s life fraught with struggles, Chitrak includes crucial moments like his first meeting with his father Guru Teg Bahadur — who returns from Assam after three and a half years — Guru getting ready for Guru Gaddi, him leaving Anandpur at midnight and Panj Pyaare. In a particularly interesting depiction of the latter, Chitrak shows a resolute looking Guru with his falcon while his Panj Pyaare or the five chosen ones —who stand for five principles and a class- and casteless society in Sikhism — astride horses move in the background. Chitrak also represents them as five elements of earth, water, fire, air and space in the geometrical forms. Chitrak is quick to grasp any such opportunity where he is afforded artistic freedom to experiment.
A few pencil sketches are also on display which demonstrate Chitrak’s immense skill in the discipline.
(The exhibition is on at AIFACS Gallery, Rafi Marg till March 31)