A soldier’s solitude

ByProma Chakraborty

Sep 13, 2019

‘If army is war, art is love’, says Col Jaspreet Gujral, whose lonely vigil at Siachen re-awakened the artist in him

Posted at Siachen glacier back in the 1990s, Col. Jaspreet Gujral, had time to himself in absolute solitude when he decided to take a go at his childhood interest – art.

“Armed with an AK-47 and a brush, I was astride two wild horses — if 8 pm to 3 am was night operations in jungles, 3 am onwards it was battle on the canvas. I dared to dream and live two lives in parallel”, Gujral writes about himself on his website.

Juggling both for more than the past 25 years, it has been only two years now since he has become a full-time artist. His recent works are on display at the exhibition aptly titled ‘Telltale Marks’.

With 25 works on display, this exhibition draws a parallel in his life spend in the army and his creative callings.

“When in defence, the first action performed by soldiers before morning light is to send out recce patrols with the purpose of observing any telltale marks left behind by enemy patrols which would have operated at night. Putting together pieces of information, a pattern of enemy’s design of battle can be revealed. All activities performed during life journey, either for serious utilitarian purposes or for pure aesthetic enjoyment, have left their telltale marks. I see my works as these telltale marks. In the clutter of love, hate, anger and lust, when pieced together these reveal a decipherable purpose of life,” explains Gujral.

However, Gujral believes that the themes of his artworks are diametrically opposite to his army life. “If army is violence, art is peace. If army is war, art is love. Through this one can see a balance of my life,” he adds.

Painting during off duty hours, Gujral continued creating his works even in conflict zones. Posted in a Naxal area in 2010, it did not keep him away from his canvas all thanks to the spirit, discipline and perseverance imbibed in him in the military.

“You go out for night operations and night ambush and even in conflict areas, it was because of the grilling in the army that I could keep the mental faculties balanced and continue with art,” adds Gujral.

Working aggressively with various mediums, materials and concepts, his new collection of work is pure abstract. And his guiding rule all through has been — “When in battle, fight like a warrior and when facing a canvas, paint like a warrior”.

The exhibition is on display at Triveni Kala Sangam till September 20