Jarnail Singh is the talented son of a very talented artist S. Kirpal Singh, known for his exceptional paintings of Sikh warriors and battles. Jarnail was born at Zira, distt. Ferozepur, Punjab on 12th June 1956. He graduated from Panjab University, Chandigarh. He had no formal training in art but the artistic blood of his father runs in his veins and that is the reason for his unique style of painting. He has participated in various exhibitions and one man shows in various parts of India. He won the Panjab Lalit Kala Akademi Awards in 1979 & 1980.

The following is an article by S.S.Bhatti, who is an art critic of the Tribune, Chandigarh and Principal, Chandigarh College of Architecture. His critical views about Jarnail are worth noting, and are given here with thanks.


Jarnail Singh's 'Punjab Paintings'

Indian civilisation is one of the oldest in the world and its cradle was in Punjab. This, state, being the main gateway into India. was feted to be the perpetual field of battle and the first hone of all the conquerors. There is thus much in the heroic struggle which Punjab -- the sword-arm of India -- had successfully put up in fighting against the tyranny and injustice of the foreign invaders and conquerors. The Green Revolution and the amazing quantities of agricultural produce have earned this state the title of "the granary of India".

The beauty of Punjab-captured by Jarnail

These epithets, enviable though they nay be, have lamentably relegated other significant achievements of this state, so much so that many people seem to believe that the only culture that Punjab can legitimately boast about is "agriculture". Yet, art folklore, ballads of love and war, fairs and festivals. dances, music, and Punjabi literature are what form characteristic expressions of the state's robust cultural life.

Ironically, notwithstanding the enviable martial, cultural art, and religious traditions of the state, there is a piti-able dearth of pictorial material on the Punjabi way of life and its exemplary history. It is this inspiring background which impels Jarnail singh (32) to attempt preserving what may soon be lost to posterity due to the rapid onslaught of industrialisation. His "Punjab Paintings" are thus an artist's pictorial record of "the glorious history and rich cultural heritage of Punjab".

Jarnail is the youngest of those few Punjabi artists who have been attracted to the themes of this state's lifestyle, art and culture. Perhaps, this is due to the influence of his artist-father, Kirpal Singh (well known for his evocative paintings of the Anglo-Sikh wars), who is
responsible for his art training. Jarnail longs to a pathetic minority of artists who practice art as a livelihood.
A BA in History and Economics, the young painter has been participating in the annual art exhibitions of the Punjab Kala Akademi since 1975. Besides, he has already held 3 one-man shows. Jarnail paints in oils on canvas of two sizes 3ft x 4ft and 2ft x 3ft..
His "Punjab Paintings" can be divided into three themes historical, Punjabi way of life, and portraiture. Commenting on the first one he writes, "While painting historical themes I have to study the relevant reference material, costumes, weapons, etc. A general perspective of those turbulent times has to be kept in mind. One has to re-create the whole atmosphere and also to infuse the spirit of the event in the paintings. Characters have to be painted in an idealistic manner so as to inspire the viewer". By and large he has succeeded in re-creating the atmosphere of "those turbulent tines" in his paintings of historical themes based on battles so valiantly fought by the Sikhs under the distinguished leadership of the saint-soldier, Guru Gobind Singh, and on other episodes connected with the life of the Sikh Gurus.
Guru Gobind Singh urging his army forward
My own liking is for the painting which portrays Guru Har Gobind in a combat with Pande Khan who had betrayed him despite the fact that the Guru has himself trained him in the martial arts. The diagonal placement of the horse figures and their contrasting colours -- white and brown - - creates a palpable visual tension so appropriate to the battle scene. But more than that, it is the expression of quiet nobility on the Guru's face which brings into focus the treacherous fright of the impending doom on the Muslim betrayer's tense visage.

- Yet another painting belonging to the historical themes is the portrait (icon) of Guru Tegh Bahadur. Jarnail has painted the Ninth Master highlighting his mastery in martial arts more than his holy qualities. This is quite unusual because all other artists have painted the Guru as a- saint absorbed in deep meditation.
"Tegh Bahadur" was a title which Guru Har Gobind gave to his son who had fought so valiantly against the Mughals even as a young boy. Impressed by his virtuosity in swordsmanship the Sixth Guru had called his son "Tegh Bahadur". which means "gallant brandisher of the sword". Garments, sword and other details of the portrait are noteworthy.
Commendable points of Jarnail's paintings of the Punjabi way of life are the typical mud hamlets of the state's villages, wall paintings on mud walls, storage bins, indigenous shelves for household wares, wicker-work baskets, the biomorphic fenestration -- above all, a placid timelessness which pervades the Punjabi rural habitat. The best painting in the category is the one which shows a village belle wrapped in phulkari, sitting on an uncovered wicker-work charpoy. The composition, the colour scheme, the
expression, the exquisite detailing altogether' make this work a "masterpiece".

The Grandeur of Sher-e-Punjab Maharaja Ranjit Singh
The Historic meeting between Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Lord Bentick at Roper - captured here brilliantly by Jarnail.
A typical Punjabi village house has been painted by Jarnail with an eye on authenticity and carefully executed details. The mud hamlet, with wall paintings, oil-lamp niche, open-air kitchen, a spacious front courtyard with a central tree and an outhouse for the cattle, etc. brings out the robust aesthetic and infectious charm of the Punjabi lifestyle.

In another painting of this category,. Jarnail has depicted various aspects of the zestful lifestyle of a Punjabi village. Embroidery of phulkari, open-air group-baking of loaves of bread (roti) in indigenous mud ovens (tandoor), a banjara selling glass bracelets to young girls, curd-churning. group-singing. on dholak,swinging in Sawan, a bride's make-up, and her reception by the ladies of the in-law's house and so forth present a fairly wide range to capture the colour and variety which characterise the Punjabi lifestyle. In all of these paintings, the most beautiful objects are the wicker-work baskets, indigenous sofa (peeda), fans and other household furniture and utensils. These studies of folk motifs and handicrafts are evocative as well as "original and authentic".

From all that he has painted so far, it seems that portraiture is Jarnail's forte. Among his portraits of Punjabi girls, women and brides, the most persistently beautiful feature is the exquisitely painted phulkari with a -rich variety of embroidered motifs and designs. Some of them are so realistic (for example, the bride in a pensive mood seated with her back towards the viewer) that one feels like touching the evocative drapery.
Jarnail has verily created a mini museum of phulkaris using an inspired painter's repertoire of keen observation, unfailing patience and technical virtuosity. He has included the major background colours like red, maroon and mustard as well as the rare "blue" which are used in phulkaris. Studies of head, ear, nose, neck and wrist ornaments are also commendable. Another noteworthy feature is that the faces of the girls, women and brides are typically "Punjabi" i.e. they are coy yet confident, lovely yet durable -- above all, aglow with an inner, unageing healthfulness, and uncontaminated by the artificiality ol industrialised urban living.
Notwithstanding the merits which I have highlighted in Jarnail's work, I cannot help making a few suggestions. He needs to do a rigorous study of human and animal anatomy, postures, moods and figures in action. This should be Supplemented by an assiduous application of the laws of perspective and foreshortening, carefully established relationships of scale, space, form and structure. There are few artists in this country who can draw or paint figures (human or animal) in action in an authentic setting of land-scape, sky, mountains, and other natural features
In the kind of work which Jarnail has himself chosen to accomplish, it is all the more incumbent upon him to acquire proficiency in the art of drawing and painting the stated elements with accuracy and authenticity..
Knowing his excellent skill in certain areas notably, phulkari painting, combined with his "deep-rooted desire tc preserve the heroic struggles and traditions of Punjabi on canvas", his energy and patience, his keen observation and love of detail, his uncanny sense of colour and composition, I have absolutely no doubt that Jarnail Singh will mature into an authentic, pictorial chronicler of the matchless history of the people of Punjab, their art and culture, and their unique lifestyle -- intense, robust earthly aesthetic, and unique.