Jarnail Singh — painter of Punjab’s cultural soul
Artical by Sarbjit Dhaliwal
History has its own way to settle a score. Way back in 1914, Baba Gurdit Singh, who led a shipload of Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims to Canada, was not allowed entry in that country. When Baba Gurdit Singh and others, who were sailing in the Komagata Maru ship, that later became an important emotional symbol in the freedom struggle of India, reached Vancouver, it was turned back by the Canadian authorities from the port on racial grounds. Later, the ship returned to Calcutta via Hong Kong where the then British Police fired at the occupants killing several of them.
Interestingly, now late Baba Gurdit Singh, his colleagues and the ship have become an integral part of the history of Canada. A giant-sized mural of Baba Gurdit Singh and the others in the ship adorns the front wall of the Senior Citizen Housing Unit in Surrey, a British Columbia city where Punjabis live in thousands. The painting of 16x18 feet size is a tribute to the great spirit Baba Gurdit Singh and the others who were unable to step on the Canadian soil.
A famous filmmaker recently announced a film, "Exclusion," on the Komagata Maru episode and she has decided to engage superstar Amitabh Bachchan to play the role of Baba Gurdit Singh.
And the painting has been done by one of the greatest Punjabi artists, Jarnail Singh, who has settled in Surrey after leaving Chandigarh six years ago.Jarnail Singh is a son of late Kirpal Singh, a famed founder artist of the Central Sikh Museum Sri Darbar Sahib, Amritsar. Kirpal Singh has a unique place in the Sikh history as a painter of Anglo-Sikh Wars and other important episodes.
Jarnail Singh, who has captured the soul and beauty of the Punjabis and their culture in a most authentic manner, is on the Board of Directors of the Arts Council of Surrey. He is also a member of the Public Art Advisory Committee there. His works have been recognized by Canadians in a big way. He grew under the shadows of his father, but inspiration to paint the Punjabi culture came from late M.S.Randhawa, a patron of Punjabi art and culture.
Quizzed about any impact of European life on his latest works, Jarnail Singh said his subject matter had changed a little bit. "Earlier, I never painted landscapes.However, of late, I have tried my hand on this subject and it has been recognized in Canada and other countries. The mesmerising natural beauty of British Columbia has influenced me to paint various lakes near Surrey,” he says.
He, however, has one little complaint to make. His father's 10-12 rare paintings on the life of the Sikh Gurus have not been taken by the SGPC though a promise was made in this regard long back.