As a continuation from my first year of studies at the Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts, my second year research and overall final degree show work follows my understanding of ‘the journey of an artist’. The study and work reflects how deeply artists use their practice to connect with the divine as well as to explore their place within the natural order of the universe. In its essence, the artwork created holds greatly within itself themes of detachment, devotion and the beauty of creation together with the divine light carried within all forms. It is a celebration of this light which exists within every leaf of every tree and every creature that swims within the darkest depths of the sea. From scenes of cosmic waters to the littlest birds perched on trees in basholi and kangra paintings my pieces capture these small scenes of beauty that we may miss in the mundane bustle of everyday life. They hold onto moments where we stop, take a breath and look up into the skies, reminding us that the world in her divine light is constantly grounding us beneath our feet.
These pieces serve as reminders, not only of the beauty of creation but also that the light that is held within the heart of the crocodile is the very same light that shines within the heart of man. Having being born into, and brought up in the Sikh faith, I am constantly surrounded by this exploration of ‘light’ and how we carry part of ‘Akaal Purakh’ (God) within ourselves. It is something that has deeply affected my research this year, where even through the darkest and hardest moments, light will carry one into peace. Darkness cannot exist without light – both dance within this cosmic order, balancing the scales of spiritual and worldly existence. Without darkness, one cannot truly appreciate the beauty of light, and without light, one may never leave darkness. In unison, they provide the most beautiful platform from which devotion flourishes. As Rumi said: ‘God turns you from one feeling to another and teaches by means of opposites so that you have two wings to fly, not one’.
We all descend from a single Source, and we all carry that essence within our souls. This life is a journey back to that home. In a lecture Roger Lipsey gave in New Delhi in 2013 he quoted AK Coomaraswamy who had written that we are ‘pilgrims come from some great distance to see God’. Translated within the language of Indian and Persian miniature painting, these timeless understandings hold great importance within the spiritual journeys of the world now, the world past and the world to be. They fall within not only the contexts behind each piece, but the process in itself. From each stroke of the brush, through the technique known as ‘Pardah’ (translating to ‘curtain’ in Urdu/Punjabi), the veil between humankind and the divine lifts, allowing for this journey to the Source to occur. It forms a deep meditation that not only brings depth and beauty to the pieces of work, but becomes a prayer for the artist. With the use of colour that comes from the earth to create paint as well as paper, this devotion and love flourishes: just as a pilgrim beautifies and perfects the space in which they pray, an artist creates the ground from which the stories of the soul shall translate into physical form. The connection of body-soul-spirit is in perfect unison.
As an artist, these timeless philosophies take a life-long practice to understand, with only the tip of the iceberg being explored within this collection of works. As a devotee, my work has become my meditation, where prayer works hand- in-hand with physical practice. As a soul passing through this passage of life, the awareness of where one stands in the cosmic order is vital to grow spiritually and realise my true purpose. I implore those who connect with my work to find small rays of light that serve as constant reminders within the darkness that can come from this world: to find and celebrate beauty in all forms, in all ways. Who are we but an extension of the beautiful creation from the Creator?
Simran Kaur Panesar is a Kenyan born artist, living in London, with roots hailing in Punjab and India. From Indian and Persian miniature painting, to motif and fresco designs, Simran’s work follows a path deep into the history of the Sikhs, exploring the rich traditions of her religious identity alongside her present identity living as a Sikh artist in the 21st century. Her work takes form around many concepts and philosophies linked to her faith, utilising the natural world to bring these into form.