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Monday, June 22, 1998

The hand that gives form to Sikh history

Rathi A Menon  
CHANDIGARH, June 21: For Devender Singh, painting came as inheritance from his father, a commercial artist, but the son turned the art into one of transforming Sikh religious history into delightful compositions on pastels.

From his house in Sector 38, his Gurus and depictions of episodes have reached many Sikh museums across the country and abroad. But Devender flashes his characteristic smile when asked about the works that brought him fame. "I have been working continuously ever since I began.

Fame does not depend on work sometimes but on destiny. There are many greater artists than me who are struggling to sustain their lives.'' And work never eluded Devender ever since his first collection of paintings on Sikh women was bought by Punjab and Sind Bank for their calendar in 1972.

Devender, a dropout from the Government College of Arts, is a self-made man who thinks that his hobby-turned-profession was like any other job which provides a man with livelihood. That can be the reason behind the nature of his realistic work that exudes heavenly bliss. His canvases are not in the nature of a `satsang in colour' but carry meaningful delineation through the countenances of Gurus, silhoutted women and the elements in sober pastels. "I focus on realistic art, not only because the orders I get are for such work but because it is drawn from life.'' And orders he gets in plenty; the walls of the Sikh museums in Paonta Sahib, Anantpur Sahib and Golden Temple are adorned with Devender's paintings. It did not take much time for the name to reach the NRI Sikhs who flocked to him with offers which resulted in his paintings reaching the Sikh shrines and attached museums in Singapore and England.

In fact, it was his series on `Bara Maah', based on compositions on seasons by Guru Nanak in raag Dukhari and Guru Arjun Dev in raag Majh which were made into calendars by Punjab and Sind Bank and Markfed, that had brought him many more offers from abroad. But that Devender is an artist whose brush cannot be restricted to paintings of these religious themes only is a fact not many in the city knows. Interestingly, whenever he ventured out he bagged accolades, at times awards too as in the case of the exquisitely conceived `lone woman in a reflective mood' that had won the Punjab Lalit Kala Academy award. And now he has made a painting that can be called his masterpiece till date.

The canvas features Radha and Krishna in an admirable colour scheme that the disposition of the depicted scene emerges intact. ``Since the workload is too much, I get very less time to paint according to what I feel.'' Nevertheless, his main ambition now is to translate the Banis of the great Gurus into paintings.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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