“During my studies at London College of Communication, and prior to my career as an artist, which started in 2012, I grew interest for the contemporary art world, and quickly came to acknowledge that there was a lack of representation of the Indian culture, of its diversity. And more particularly of the Sikh Indian culture,” shares the young artist.
London-based artist, Jatinder Singh Durhailay, was always fond of painting and drawing since childhood. But seeing that Indian culture was hardly depicted through art got him interested in a career as a painter. “During my studies at London College of Communication, and prior to my career as an artist, which started in 2012, I grew interest for the contemporary art world, and quickly came to acknowledge that there was a lack of representation of the Indian culture, of its diversity. And more particularly of the Sikh Indian culture,” shares the young artist whose paintings have been showcased at various exhibitions in and around United Kingdom.
Jatinder’s paintings are inspired by diverse periods within Sikh history and beautifully reflect Indian Sikh culture. “Several of my paintings are also influenced by the times I spent as a curious eighteen year old on his first trip alone in India, these with particular groups of Sikhs. Two of which are the Nihang and Namdhari,” he shares, further adding, “Technique wise, I took a particular interest in the oil paintings of the Renaissance period and later, came back to looking at the miniature paintings of India and in some way following the lineage of the Punjab Hills School.”
His work has appeared in exhibitions including Warrior Saints (2013, National Army Museum - Chelsea, London, UK), Gin and Juice (2012, Gallery Ivory and Black - London, UK), Empire, Faith and War (Brunei Gallery, London UK 2014), and State of Origin (Unit24 Gallery, London UK 2014).
At the moment alongside his figurative paintings, Jatinder is focusing on more abstract based works, which are inspired by Tantra paintings. “These play on certain words in Gurmukhi or Sanskrit, for example ‘Seetal’ that stands for ‘peaceful’. Within the same body of work, I also experience conveying the emotions of various ragas through colours on handmade papers,” explains the recipient of the Sikh People’s Choice Awards in 2013. His most memorable painting till date, he says, is Baba ji, an oil painting on linen from 2012. “I felt very free as I produced this painting in my first studio in Hackney, London.”
On the topic of ragas, Jatinder is also a well-known musician. He is trained in Indian Classical Music and plays rare instruments such are the Dilruba and Taus. This passion for music triggered during his teenage years when he heard notes from a Dilruba being played on the occasion of a gathering of Sikh students. “An unforgettable Raag, it was Dhanasri, while the Shabad being sung was “Tum ghar avho mere meet” which can translate as “come back home my dear friend.” I can pinpoint the start of my musical journey to that very moment, one after which I pursued learning the Dilruba,” recalls Jatinder who recently performed in France, Japan, Portugal and Belgium, including recitals in small circle, accessing various audiences with very diverse backgrounds.
Jatinder released his first instrumental album, Inaka no Hana, in 2016, that harnesses the feelings of nature and rural life. His second album, The Last Ballad of Mardana, is inspired by love, longing, nature and poetry. “The idea of the musical piece, titled The Last Ballad of Mardana, which is also the title of the album itself, came about as I tried to imagine what Bhai Mardana’s last song on the Rabab may have been after the experiences he would have shared alongside Guru Nanak Dev Ji,” he shares.
While creating original music, Jatinder explores the Dilruba and Taus with an attempt to create new and unconventional dialogues. “Which these instruments would previously never have been accustomed to,” he says.
The future holds big plans for Jatinder. “Tea Notes, a musical project in collaboration with musician David Edren is releasing in April,” he reveals. In May, he will have several musical performances in Japan (Tokyo and Kamakura) and the first book on his painterly practice is to be published in 2019.
Photos: Courtesy Jatinder Singh Durhailay, Johanna Tagada