I was utterly intrigued, so arranged a Q and A with Kaur to learn a little more. I hope you enjoy it as much as did. Again - if you want at attend the opening, just RSVP at the link above. For media inquires or to arrange an interview - please contact Jessie Kaur Lehail at email@example.com
Interview with artist Jess Kaur
Where were you born? Where did you grow up?
What were you like as a child?
From what I recall I was a very lively person. Loved reading!!! I felt like I wanted to read all the books in the school library.
Looking back, can you share one story that hints you would become an artist?
Whenever I saw paintings I would stare at them for ages, as if I wanted to be absorbed into the details too. When I was 18 years old, one of older brothers was getting married and I wanted to give him a gift. As a student I didn't have much discretionary income so I decided to make him an oil painting of the legendary lovers "Sohni Mahiwal". I literally just picked up a brush, looked at a famous painting and copied it. To this day my nephew has it hanging in his house (see attachment). The joy I had in making the painting encouraged me to make a few more.
Talk about your journey to reach this moment?
I am basically self-taught. Even though I have been an Educator all these years, I always found time to draw and paint. After oils, I tried water colors and then portraits. This became my passion. The children were young and at home there was not much time so whenever I had a free period (when I was not teaching) and during my lunch period at school, I would work on a portrait. I started with portraits of the spiritual masters (Bhai Sahib Bhai Vir Singh and Professor Puran Singh). I was in love with their teachings and guidance and felt close to them as I drew them. So as my readings grew to include other such great souls - like Bauji Jaswant Singh, Nietzche, Soren Kierkegaard, I continued to draw.
I notice your website uses the title Mantra Art. What is Mantra Art?
Once again this started at school. I had just returned from a 10 day spiritual retreat in India and was in class. My students were writing a test and I was sitting at my desk looking through a book magazine and I stopped to look at a picture of a humming bird in mid-air drawing nectar from a red hibiscus. The intensity and the beauty moved me and I just picked up a pen and started writing "waheguru" - the mantra mentioned in all my art as I felt that all around was His Divine Presence and this was the only way I could depict it on paper. I let my heart rule and let it take me wherever it wanted to. I filled in the whole page with the mantra (afterwards in my lunch time) and it looked beautiful to me. When I shared it with my friends they wanted me to do more. So that was how Mantra Art was born.
It reminded me of a technique I had heard about from a very dear friend of my mine who had an art background. Pointillism uses small dots to make an image too. This technique evolved more over time as i experimented with colors and different pens. I learnt by making mistakes. For example - I made a huge painting for our gurduwara and unfortunately the ink I used started to disappear after a while with sun exposure. Mistakes are teachers in disguise. That is when I discovered 'archival ink" which never fades. I coined the phrase "Reflective Mantra Art" when I had my first exhibition at McGill University, in order to explain the meditative nature of the word, the mantra, being written. As one writes a mantra (and of course this could be any mantra like om, alla hu etc) with concentration it brings peace and reflection to the soul through its intense vibrations.
Your upcoming Exhibit is titled, "Unfolding Consciousness". Can you share why your chose that title and a bit about what you will be sharing with those attending.
The word "Consciousness" when translated into gurbani is "Surat" or "Chit". At any one moment we may be doing something but our "surat" may be elsewhere. As one practices, meditates and becomes an introvert, through an evolving process, as promised by gurbani, one begins to understand intuitively about the illusionary nature of the Universe and the ubiquitous Divine presence. My paintings attempt to bring the viewer to this realization; that God is Omnipresent (Everywhere), Omnipotent (all powerful) and Omniscient (All Knowing) and that we are all spiritual beings having a human experience.
This exhibition is also a fundraiser for Doctors without Borders. Why was it about this organization that drew your support?
For years I have been an avid supporter of this cause. I admire and am inspired by those who in spite of having high paying jobs choose to leave them and their families to go to remote places in the world and serve those who are in dire need. They put their own health at risk. With new challenges like Ebola, they need all the support they can get.
To learn more about Juss Kaur please visit her website at www.jusskaur.com