Published in Roopa Lekha, 1972-73, VoL 44, pp. 36-38

On a visit to the annual exhibition of the Government Arts College, Chandigarh, in 1974, I came across some unusual paintings by a young artist, Ranbir Singh Kaleka. He was a final year student and I was greatly impressed by the imaginative quality of his paintings and selected one for the Chandigarh museum.

Ranbir Singh’s achievements are all the more remarkable, as he is the son of a farmer with no background of any type of sophistication which we associate with art. His father S. Avtar Singh Kaleka, a Jat Sikh of Sarao caste and Kaleka clan, has a farm in the village in Patiala District. I asked Ranbir Singh to tell me about his background, education and how and why he paints. His answer is reproduced below.

“I was born in the village of Brahma on 4th April 1953. At the early age of four, I started to draw a tractor, man, jeep, cycle, etc., with a piece of charcoal on the walls. Seeing my efforts, my uncle bought me a set of water colours. I had seen nobody draw or paint at the time and nearly all of the time I stayed at our big ancestral home.

When I was six the family moved to Patiala for my and my brother’s education. Right from the time I joined school to the time I passed out I have been better than all my classmates in drawing.

From the time I drew my first drawing in the village I have been much encouraged by my father and mother, who are gifted with an aesthetic sense and aptitude for appreciation of things connected with art, and also my elder brother and two uncles.

Immediately after school, I joined the Government Arts College, Chandigarh, where I have been awarded scholarships regularly. After the first year I have always achieved a first class first in the examinations.

In my second year I sent my works for the first time to the National Exhibition, Delhi, and my drawing was selected. In the same year, I was awarded first prize in graphics in the Punjab Lalit Kala exhibition which was my first attempt too. I was still in the second year when my painting was selected for the Asia-72 exhibition.

I have also been receiving awards in all the annual college exhibitions, topped by two first prizes both in painting and graphics in my final year. For all this I am indebted to my father, mother and elder brother. Mr. Raj Jain (Head of the Fine Arts Department, Arts College, Chandigarh ) has also given me a lot of encouragement. How do I paint? In the beginning there is just a feeling, later the feeling gets more perceptive and takes the form of an idea and then the image or a pattern with abstract or real images are transmitted to the canvas through the conscious by the subconscious (resulting in logical reasoning) and before the images are expressed on the canvas the conscious part does a lot of thinking. Thus I may think for two weeks or more before starting to paint a picture.

I want to compete with literature which is considered to be a more complete art. My paintings are not an illustration of an idea but rather of a passage, a chapter of thought, in which human relations and human nature are depicted.

My paintings are not illustrations in the literal sense. Thus I find it difficult to explain that passage or chapter of the though process.

My painting do not fall in the pattern of pare surrealistic or Dada paintings.

Published in Roopa Lekha, 1972-73, VoL 44, pp. 36-38
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