Thirty-year-old artist Harleen Kaur took herself down the memory lane with a long pending trip to Amritsar in January this year.
This led to many revelations that she carried back home to reproduce on her canvas. In her new art exhibition, titled Confluence, at Gallery Articulate in the capital city, she paints some of these memories.
The most soul-stirring instigator was her visit to the Partition Museum. This is a place that documents events leading up to the Partition and its consequences, in addition to oral, visual, written and audio recordings.
“My paternal grandmother’s father was the Brigade Commander during the partition and was in charge of demarcating the new border at Wagah. I have heard many stories of him but wanted to see the documentation at the museum for myself,” says Kaur.
The second she entered the museum, her senses numbed. Her hands and legs experienced goosebumps and her voice lost its power.
“Maybe because I am a Sikh, it was very difficult for me to accept the catastrophes that the Partition led to. Reading testimonials, listening to the sound byte, and watching videos brought out the impact of it all. All along my father shared personal anecdotes so I could put things into perspective,” she says.
But there was one room among it all that awakened her artistic journey. It was the one with old maps, especially a large display showing the extent of Punjab under various rulers before it split into India and Pakistan.
“I knew then, that I was going to create something with these maps and also the understanding my roots were offering me,” says Kaur.
Her painting Undivided is a search of undivided Punjab before Partition. This is also the most significant work in her collection. The word Punjab means the land of five rivers and this art piece shows the five rivers being a unified part of it.The other depiction she is really fond of is a drawing presenting the Golden Temple complex. “The creation process of both these was an emotional one. There were several times I had to stop and take a break as the construction was becoming overwhelming with all that has happened in Punjab,” shares Kaur.
Some of the other works are inspired by her visit to her ancestral home in Kasauli where her family and she would retreat annually. “I seldom use pure realism as a form of art, I prefer using a real inspiration which is what I’ve done through Confluence too,” she says.
In January 2020, she will present her new work. Perhaps, Kaur will once again refer to history for inspiration.
On: October 12-14 At: Gallery Articulate, B-70, Gulmohar Park