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Healing through colours

Updated: Oct 19, 2021

He wears a doctor's hat every day but when he is not attending patients, Dr. Prithipal Singh Sethi spreads positivity through his artworks. His latest show ‘SoulScapes’ is his way of expressing his thoughts and sharing hope during the pandemic.

Dr. Prithipal Singh Sethi stands next to Migration 2020, an artwork being displayed at his exhibition 'SoulScapes'.

Dr. Prithipal Singh Sethi has been healing the society as a general physician as well as an artist. In his latest solo show ‘SoulScapesbeing held place at Shridharani Art Gallery at Triveni Kala Sangam in New Delhi, he used colours to spread hope during the pandemic. The artist has drawn inspiration from nirvana, dreams, birth, night vigil, cascade, spring, transience, cosmos, spring, storm, faith, butterflies, and birds, to name a few. But unlike moroseness that the pandemic inflicted upon people, these artworks can heal art lovers.

Describing his artworks and the colourful palette used, the artist says, “As a doctor, I have not forgotten the role of healer. The society needs healers to wash away ills and diseases. Through my paintings, I have tried to heal the society and give people hope that sadness is a temporary phase.”

Dr. Prithipal’s forte lies in abstract expressionism where instead of using any forms, he used colours to define moods, light and application of strokes. This is evidently depicted in the hues and shades that he has used in this show.

In one of his artworks titled ‘Genesis’, the artist has shown the birth of life using feathery brush and light colours. In ‘Angry hill’, the artist has paid an ode to Maharana Pratap’s horse, Chetak. Though he had to show a war and Chetak as a warrior, the artist has subtly depicted anger and bloodshed.

“I have shown a horse like figure standing atop of Haldighati. I have created the scene of a war by showcasing Mughal army with red, yellow and green flags,” he explains.

Concepts of ‘chid aakash’ or ‘universal subconsciousness’ have been showcased using tones of blue, yellow and white.

He explains ‘Sree’, one of his artworks, as his way of showing that when mind firmly goes in the state of meditation, the slate of life becomes blue and the person becomes one with the universal consciousness.

In the artwork, the artist has used Lord Ganesh and Om to symbolise consciousness. “With meditation, whether it is for art, medicine or music, the purity of mind begins. I have shown purity of mind using the blue colour at centre of the painting. As it gets matured, the mind becomes one with the universal consciousness. This possibility can only be achieved by the grace of Ganesha, depicted through the towering head on the top of the slate,” he adds.

With minimalistic abstraction, the artist has taken references from Krishna and Shiva in his artwork titled ‘introspection’. “I have used Krishna’s feather and Shiva’s third eye to represent consciousness and wisdom, respectively. When they work together, you have introspection,” he says.

Another artwork, ‘One star’ is inspired by the sakhi of Guru Nanak, Ekyum Kar. Migration 2020 is the artist’s way of sharing struggle and migration that labourers faced due to the pandemic-induced lockdown. “I have used light tones to show migration so that people can find hope looking at this piece,” he shares.

Strokes of hope: (From left to right) Spring Sonata, Cosmos and Sun Blessed Sea being showcased at the gallery.

Dr. Prithipal’s journey as an artist began on a dreamy note. At 23, he dreamt of making a painting. When he narrated his dream to his sister, she gifted him a canvas, paintbrush and colours the next morning.

Though art started as a hobby, he matured as an artist after he took a two-year part-time art course at National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in 1994. In the earlier years of his artistic career, he explored with figurative art. He took inspiration from real-life instances that the society was encountering as subjects of his artworks. He was also inspired by burning of brides and freedom at midnight, both of which he later painted on the canvas.

“Freedom at Midnight is about independence, and it was my first big oil on canvas painting. I showed the map of India as the jumping horse. On the left side of the horse, I showed the dark past that India had overcome during the British Raj. On the right side of the canvas, I showed a nest and the horse marching towards it,” he recalls.

It was later that he converted from figurative to abstract expressionism. In 2017, the artist fructified his dream as an artist when the Delhi Medical Association (DMA) announced artworks from doctors to celebrate its diamond jubilee celebrations. Ten of his paintings in landscape art were showcased along with the works of four other doctor-cum-artists from India. The show also saw participants from other countries. “That, for me, was the turning point,” he says.

The show will end on October 20, 2021.

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