Celestial Beings – a revelation
‘Celestial Beings’ - the latest body of work by the artist Sidharth takes one on a journey of introspection. The series comprises 14 canvases with subjects that are close to his heart and a result of years of meditation.
In the late 60’s, he was an apprentice at the studio of Sardar Sobha Singh, the celebrated Indian painter. Sardar Sobha Singh lived in Andretta, not far from Dharamsala, home to His Holiness Dalai Lama’s monastery in Mcleodgunj. It was fated, and soon the young Sikh painter turned apprentice at the revered Namgyal Monastery nearby. Here he learnt the Thangka painting technique from Tibetan Lamas. In the 70’s, he travelled extensively in rural Punjab and studied folk motifs; the influence of all this training can be seen in his paintings, particularly in his use of colour. His paintings have been much acclaimed and prized for their dynamic use of colouration.
Every canvas with its rich colours and captivating subject has a story to tell, all of which will be published in a book. These stories are experiences that he has had during his life. For instance, when asked about ‘Pahari’ (Mountain), he relates the story of the time he was trekking in Shimla and got caught in a forest fire. It was unbearably hot, he was tired and his hair had gotten singed, therefore, when he saw a channel nearby, he gladly took refuge in it, occasionally dipping his head in water while waiting for rescue. At some point, while waiting, he fell asleep; when he awoke he found a person kneeling next to him, who told him the fire was merely nature taking its course and nothing to be afraid of. The person then offered him some apricots and disappeared. Throat dry with thirst, he ate them hungrily and later realised that the person resembled neither a man nor a woman – an unreal experience. It dawned on him that this person, neither man nor woman, was simply a celestial being who appeared at the right time to give him courage. Now, years later, he remembered the encounter; it came back to him and there was an urgency he felt to translate it on to his canvas.
As a child he learned the lesson of sharing; recently those memories came back to him and it resulted in the painting of The Ant. The story goes like this: as a child he was fond of eating barfi (a sweet made of thickened milk). One day, after buying his barfi from the sweet shop he decided to take a nap under a tree. Since he had eaten only half of the barfi, he decided to wrap the other half in paper and keep for when he awoke from his nap. He fell asleep clutching the wrapped- up half. All of a sudden he awoke – albeit in pain. He felt stinging and burning all over his body, a number of ants had gotten attracted to the barfi in his hands and had come to claim it, biting/ stinging him as a result. He jumped out of the cot and brushed off the ants, killing a few in the process.
His father heard his cries and came to pacify him. Seeing all the dead ants, his father explained to him that the ants did not come there to hurt him; rather they were merely attracted to the barfi. Hearing this, the young boy became very sad thinking he had unnecessarily harmed a number of ants. So deep was his sorrow that he stopped eating barfi. On seeing his son forlorn, and not eating his beloved barfi for days, his father explained that life and death are laws of nature. Also, that in the future he should always share his food with other beings, like birds and ants etc.
“ A celestial being is like you & I. It could be a tree in your courtyard, an ant walking across the floor, a grasshopper or even a frog in the pond. We just need to open ourselves to the universe and we would know these celestial beings. Even the smallest of being is a divine creation.
Painting to me is akin to meditation, to love. I paint when at a loss for words, I sing in love and dance in ecstasy. – Sidharth”
While interacting with his work the viewer is transfixed and can’t help but introspect. These beautiful colour rich canvases have a mystical quality to them. Even though each work is about his personal experience they somehow speak to the viewer – you either get a subtle message or find that you can relate to a part of it - somehow you feel you might have shared in the experience. By the time one is done viewing the canvases, they no longer remain the artists’ work but are somehow transformed, into one’s own private journey.
An accomplished artist, a talented singer and documentary filmmaker, Sidharth lives and works in Noida, India.
In 2012, he was awarded an Honorary D-Lit by the Punjabi University in Patiala. His artworks are in the collections of numerous museums, institutions & private collections worldwide such as, the Government Museum-Chandigarh, the NGMA -New Delhi, the Dusseldorf Museum, the British Council -New Delhi, Lalit Kala Academi –Chandigarh, and Dabur India amongst others.