Arpana Caur is a prominent Sikh artist born in Delhi India in 1954. Arpana grew up in an environment that was rich in art and music. Arpana's mother, Padmashri Smt. Ajeet Cour is an award winning novelist, whose influence resonates in Arpana's very essence.
She attended Delhi University and graduated with a MA in Literature. As a self taught painter, Arpana's influences came from her mother's writings, Punjabi folk literature, the Pahari miniature tradition and Indian folk-art motifs. Her art is a direct reflection of her personal experiences, inspired by local and world events.
Although she has previously focused on Indian women, capturing the essence of their day to day activities inspired by social, cultural and spiritual themes, her focus has spread to many other aspects of life including the environment, spiritualism (Nanak, Kabir, Buddha, Yogi and Yogini and Sufi series), time, life and death, the coexistence of past and present in India, communal riots, nuclear issues, peace, etc. She was Sikhpoint.com's featured artist for their 2006 Calendar.
Her maternal grandparents, mother and brother, eminent doctor Padma Shri. Vibhushan Dr. J. S. Bajaj came as refugees from Lahore. When India turned 50 in 1997, Arpana painted her grandfather bringing the Guru Granth Sahib on his head from Lahore to Delhi and this painting is what to this day has a prominent place in the Caur home.
Gurbani has always played an important part in Caur's household; recordings of Bani frequently plays as she paints and is an integral part of her life. Her family's upbringing was extremely secular in the true tradition of Sikhism with equal reverence for all religious faiths and reverence and respect for all places of worship; an old tradition of India.
The sharing of one’s earnings (Vand ka shako) is another virtue imbibed on Arpana by her grandfather, mother and her faith. She together with her mother have been running free School for slum women for 35 years. They also participate in several other projects related to widows and leprosy.
These projects are all sustained entirely from the earnings from her paintings without any grants from anywhere else. Part of her personal revenue also goes to two Saints in Sultanpur Lodhi and Khadoor Sahib who do immense amount of environmental work.
She believe strongly in the protection of the environment and of nurturing of nature by supporting trees planting and restoration of rural and urban environments. She also believes in the protection of heritage monuments and has contributed whenever possible to the widows of 1984 who are resettled in Tilak Vihar Delhi.
Arpana Caur has been exhibiting her paintings across the globe since 1974. Her solos apart from Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Bangalore and Chennai have been held in galleries in London, Glasgow, Berlin, Amsterdam, Singapore, Munich, New York and in Stockholm and Copenhagen National Museum. Her work can be seen in Museums of Modern Art in Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Dusseldorf, Singapore, Bradford, Stockholm, Hiroshima, Smithsonian Washington and Victoria and Albert Museum London.
She was awarded a gold medal in VIth International Triennele 1986 in Delhi. She was commissioned by Hiroshima Museum of Modern Art to execute a large work for its permanent collection for the 50th anniversary of the Holocaust in 1995, and by Bangalore city and the city of Hamburg to do large non-commercial murals in public spaces. Since 1981 she did three large non-commercial murals in Delhi and one in Kathmandu.
In 2005, at the age of 51, Arpana has become a well known and much celebrated artist around the world. For the last three decades her exhibitions have been shown across the world. She has participated in group shows in Japan, USA, Algiers', Singapore, Australia, Austria, Iraq, Cuba, USSR and Germany.
Reviews of her work have appeared time and again in Indian Press and TV and in the Guardian, New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Svanska Dagbladet, Dagens Nyhter, Die Welt etc. BBC and Star TV have made documentary films on her in the 1980's apart from a documentary by Sidharth Tagore.
For the past 5 years, three of her works including 'Nanak' and '1984' have been on display at the Sikh Art Gallery in the Smithsonian, Washington DC. She had done murals from 1981 to 2005 in India and one in Hamburg, all of them non-commercial, as a commitment to Public Art.