Contemplation through the fields

For the exhibition currently running in Bradford at Kala Sangam, we selected over 20 photographs and commissioned two pieces of art to share the Hola Mahalla experience. Jag Lall is one of three artists whose art forms part of the exhibition. The other two artists are Dhanjal Art and Moninder Singh. Eventually we hope to bring you further interviews with everyone involved with the project.

Jag Lall visited the exhibition during the Bradford Literature Festival in May and we got the following filmed interview with him. We also have a further more detailed written interview with him below.

Q Introduce yourself?

My name is Jag Lall and I'm a free spirited artist.

Q Describe the different type of art that you produce?

My main two things are canvas paintings and graphic novels, comic book art. With my canvas paintings I say they're free spirited because they're very much my own personal expression, personal narrative. They're thought provoking, they're unique. You won't find my paintings, the imagery elsewhere because they're that unique, I give different and modern twists to contemporary images. and just try to give different meanings to my paintings as well. They're all acrylic based, I like to work quite large as well; very brisk, expressive brush strokes, thats definitely my signature look I think in my paintings. 

My graphic novels, they also kind of have a social commentary edge. I think its really important to me that art can make a difference and the whole use of imagery and narrative blended together for me works really well and I think allows me to give the messages that I want to the world. 

Q Which ones are examples with a modern twist? 

The one I did on Maharaja Duleep Singh, the painting I did of him where one wrist was tied to a British flag and one wrist was tied to the India flag. For me, just reading his story I didn't want to just copy a portrait that was done before. When I was reading about his story I kind of felt he was torn and tied between both countries and in a lot of ways I kind of feel like that as a British Asian if I'm honest living in England. Its like you know, motherland might be India but whats really home for me as well? So thats my own expression and own narrative I wanted to bring to the piece as well. 

In terms of a contemporary social definition, that painting has really resonated with people as well, especially British Asians. Our generation I think really feel like that, a lot of us feel quite torn between both. 

Q What was the piece that you were commissioned to do for the Hola Mahalla exhibition?

The piece I did for the Hola Mahalla exhibition is called 'Contemplation Through the Fields'. Originally I saw a photograph and if Im honest its one of the first few photographs I saw in my life which I looked at and thought I have to paint this. It had an emotion which really resonated with me; because when I think of Hola Mahalla I think of… well noise. I think of noise, I think of energy, vibrance, colour, and the photograph was quite subdued but it was almost like a shot in time, it had a stillness to it that really struck with me. It was very much opposite to what I would think of Hola Mahalla. So when I saw that I thought  "I had to paint it" and just try to recreate that emotion but in my own art, brushstroke expressive style. 

Original photograph for Contemplation Through the Fields

Original photograph for Contemplation Through the Fields

When I create all my paintings, as I mentioned Im quite expressive, so a lot of times I will quite literally splatter paint onto the canvas. A lot of drips, thats actually how I start my artwork, it's drips of colour, and splashes of colour.

In a way a lot of my paintings are like a sculpture and I try to work my way through it. You can kind of see that actually in the painting as well, if you look you can see the drips flowing through the canvas and its juts kind of my own signature work and emotion for me. There's a lot of energy to the painting, thats one thing I was really happy with the painting. Its got a stillness to it, with the boy leaning on the horse. Them two are quite still, but when you kind of look into it the brushstrokes are really fast and brisk. In a way it really captures the energy of Hola Mahalla without losing its stillness.

Q How long did it take?

Generally I take 10 to 12 hours doing a canvas painting but with this painting I felt it happened a lot quicker, so I'd say 8 to 9 hours tops I was able to finish this off.

I like to do a lot of sketch thumbnails before I start my main paintings. Obviously since this was already a photograph, that was in a way my thumbnail sketch. However I did make a mistake because I was so in love with the photograph. To begin with I just recreated that kind of composition and when I stepped back from the painting I noticed the boy on the horse were too much to the right and there was too much space to the left. The composition and the size of the painting, the size I was working at, the dimensions were slightly different to what was in the photograph, it wasn't working out. When I was about 40% finished, I completely scrapped the whole painting; did a couple of sketches; and shifted the whole thing to the right and also added a man on a horse behind and just switched the layout and composition to make sure it worked the way I needed it to. 

Q How does it fit within the exhibition 

That was one thing I was really curious to find, does it fit? Sometimes what I find with my art, because its so brisk and expressive it doesn't fit, but I think it really does fit, because a lot of the photography is really colourful as well. And obviously that painting has a lot of colour in it as well. It fits kind of seamlessly, it also blends in well with the other artwork as well as the photography.

Jag Lall's commissioned piece Contemplation Through the Fields can be seen as part of the Hola Mahalla exhibition at Kala Sangam, in Bradford throughout June.  If you're interested in purchasing the original canvas painting of Contemplation Through the Fields click here to register your interest.

You can see more of Jag Lall's artwork at 

You can see a trailer of the Documentary by clicking here.

To buy the documentary 'Hola Mahalla: The Forgotten Festival on DVD click here or to watch it online via On-Demand click here.

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