Works displayed at Uddari Art:
Sohan Qadri has been immersed in painting and meditation for more than 30 years. His dye-suffused paintings on meticulously serrated paper reflect his Tantric philosophical beliefs. Robert Thurman, professor of Eastern religions at Columbia University and director of Tibet House, says: If words were colours, Qadri’s art would not be as essentially necessary as it is.
Qadri who has lived in Copenhagen, Denmark, for the last three decades, was born in November 1932 in the Punjab in the village of Chāchoki near Jalandhar. He joined the Shimla College of Art (where the painter SL Prasher, was the principal), against the wishes of his parents, and after graduating in the mid-60s, he became part of the circuit of the Indian modernists that included M.F. Husain, Syed Haider Raza, Ara, Ram Kumar, and Sailoz Mookherjee. Mulk Raj Anand was the first to recognize Qadri’s talent and organized his first exhibition in Le Corbusier’s brand new architectural complex in Chandigarh.
Soon after, Qadri departed for Nairobi, Kenya, where under the patronage of the African cultural figure Elimo Njau, he had a successful exhibition at Paa-Yaa-Paa, a non-profit art gallery. At the time, the gravitational pull for artists was Paris, where Qadri lived for a few years before settling in Copenhagen, where he was invited by the Danish Ministry of Culture. In the 1970s, he, along with a group of artists and counter-culture figures, squatted an old gun factory, which eventually became the famous free city Christianna.
At an early age, Qadri abandoned representation in a search for transcendence. He says: ‘When I start on a painting, first I empty my mind of all images. They dissolve into primordial space. Only emptiness, I feel, should communicate with emptiness of the canvas.’ Despite the fact that he lives in Northern Europe, his work is distinctly Indian. His colours are luminous – Sindhoori reds, peacock blues, intense oranges, along with blacks and grays. A rigorous Scandinavian aesthetic distills these Indian colours. The luminous monochrome surfaces of his paintings are repeatedly incised and punctured in an orderly manner, which creates a strict structure. Art critic Donald Kuspit has said: ‘Using abstraction to convey transcendence, he is the pre-eminent aesthetic mystic of modernism.’
Qadri has had more than 50 exhibitions across the United States, Europe, Asia, and Africa.
He has published four collections of poetry in Punjabi and one each in English and Danish.
The dialogue in Punjabi between him and Amarjit Chandan titled Hun-khin (The Present Moment in Time) was published by Navyug in 2000.
‘Sohan Qadri with his painting liberates the word meditation from its fashionable taste and brings it back to its proper origin, uninfluenced by Western propaganda, misunderstandings and corruptions’.
– Heinrich Böll. Nobel Laureate. 1972. Köln
‘You may look at his paintings as symbolic representations of the “serpent power” (Kundalini) or as mere form and colour to enjoy as pure art . . . an exceptional artist’.
– F.N. Souza. Painter and Writer. New York 1976
‘His art is enigmatic art, immaculately executed’.
– Jenny Bergin. The Ottawa Citizen. July 7, 1972
‘Sohan Qadri, in a few words, believes in an inner and outer sphere in the life of man. Striving to establish contact with this world within, with one’s true self, he sees as utterly essential for all of us. His art belongs to something of the most refined one can perceive, something which touches “the ultimate secret”. We can experience his works directly and with strong presence, and thereafter we can slowly decipher and extract their secrets’.
– Virtus Schade. Art Critic and Writer. Copenhagen 1978