Making Mohrakashi with Gurpreet Singh Mankoo

Making Mohrakashi with Gurpreet Singh Mankoo

in Video
Published on: 12 June 2018

Maneet Kaur

Dr Maneet Kaur is a researcher, academic, textile artist and designer. Under a non-NET fellowship, she completed her PhD on the 'Evolution of Motif and Colour of Ikat in Gujarat, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh' from the Design Department, Kala Bhavan, Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan. Prior to that she received a research grant for a project on Bondo textiles and natural dyeing in Ikat textiles from lac and jackfruit from the Nehru Trust for the Indian Collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum. She has submitted a documentary film on 'Bondo Textiles of Orissa' to the Handlloom Office under the Ministry of Textiles, Bhubaneswar, Odisha. She has attended a workshop on Chumar-Chitram (Kerala mural art) under K.U. Krishna Kumar, Principal, Guruvayur Devaswom Institute of Mural Painting, and assisted Kerala mural artist Anoop Gopi for his project of painting the interior wall in Chumar-Chitram on theme 'Brikha-ropan' in the Central building, Santiniketan. She has taught at the Architecture and Interior School, LPU, Phagwara, and as an Assistant Professor at the Design Department, ApeeJay College of Fine Arts, Jalandhar. Apart from teaching she was actively conducting workshops on natural dyes on jute, cotton, silk using direct and resist-method dyeing techniques like batik. She has presented papers onbatik of Santiketan, Kodpad weavers, Telia rumal, crochet and Punja Dhurries. She has been engaged in designing organic jewellery and souvenirs with the folk artists and aboriginal craftspersons of Santiniketan; natural dyeing of dhurries with Nakodar weavers, and in introducing new motifs to the Phulkari of Patiala. She has had exhibitions of her watercolours, which are influenced by motifs of mohrakashi. She is currently engaged in interpreting ‘nature's culture in visual art’ through the textile medium, with three surface-designing techniques: crochet, Phulkari and appliqué from 'katran' (using zero-waste textile materials).

Video recorded in 2017


Painter Gurpreet Singh Mankoo was born in Jagraon (Punjab) on October 29, 1975, into a humble Sikh family. His parents, Sukhdev Singh and Manjit Kaur, were followers of Sant Baba Asmedh Singhji, Sewadaar Baba Isher Singh ji, of Nanaksar Kaleran, Jagroan. From his childhood, he was dedicated to religious practices which subsequently inspired him to paint on religious themes in a realistic style.


Gurpreet Singh Mankoo trained in the realistic style of painting during his teenage years as an apprentice to Sardar Dilbagh Singh, a realistic artist of Ludhiana. His expertise was in portraits. His paintings of local subjects and famous personalities such as Anupam Kher (oil on board), were exhibited in 1998 at the Lalit Kala Akademi, Chandigarh and in 2001 at Kalpana Art Society, Ludhiana. The exhibition included local-theme–based portraits such as ‘Punjabi Dulhan’ (oil on canvas). The second painting exhibition was dedicated to Ghazal Samrat S. Jagjit Singh by the Artist Soba Singh Memorial Artist Group, Jagraon. Due to demand for his portraits, landscapes and religious paintings in oil and acrylic colours on board and canvas, he opened his own gallery named the Mankoo Art Gallery at his residence.


With continuous support and cooperation of his spouse Kamalpreet Kaur, and children Harmanpreet Kaur and Harsimrat Kaur and Partap Singh, he ventured into the new medium and technique of mohrakashi in middle age. In 2015, he learned from a friend about the restoration and conservation of mohrakashi at Darbar Sahib by Namita Jaspal, Conservator and Consultant for Heritage Property, Chandigarh. His drawings, treatment of colours and passion for learning, were admired and he was selected for the restoration of colours and motifs in the Mohrakashi technique. With his self-study, research and guidelines given by Namita Jaspal, he did the restoration of traditional motifs on ceiling, on the walls of the staircase from the first to the second floor in April 3 – May 15, 2015. He expressed his deep involvement in mohrakashi thus:


It’s a process by which selected natural materials are united in the wet stage to glorify the pattern. All ingredients in this technique are in scattered, tough and harsh in their original existence. By the process of diluting and mixing, they unite as one soul. The Lime, a prime ingredient, undergoes for a treatment with water for months to end its inner heat and is prepared to bind with extracted pigments from stones. Artist follows this journey of uniting and binding natural materials patiently, with dedication to keep himself connected with oneness.


He got the opportunity to revere and observe his great master’s strokes and works of mohrakashi. His inclination towards mohrakashi led him in 2015 to take up for restoration the figurative motifs on the interior walls of the Krishan Mandir, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in village Kishan Kot, district Gurdaspur. In 2015–16, he worked on the interior walls and ceiling of Gurudwara Sahib, Mansuran, Ludhiana-West.


As he grew involved in studying the sources of the mohrakashi stokes of  great masters, he developed a desire to learn the Dukshini Vijayanagar style of miniature painting (Vijayanagara, Bengaluru) under M.V. Kambar, Dukshini Vijayanagar Miniature Style Artist, Bengaluru.


In 2017, Matsya Avtar, 30 x 42 cm (gouache on paper) was exhibited at the 83rd All India Exhibition of Arts, Indian Academy of Fine Arts, Amritsar. Varaaha Avtar (40 x 30 cm; gouache on paper), was displayed at the Fourth International Art Exhibition, India-Netherlands, while ‘Love, Peace and Humanity’, was displayed at WTC Hague Art Gallery Netherlands. National Miniature Camp, Lalit Kala Akademi Art Galleries of Rabindra Bhawan, New Delhi. Presently he is engaged in miniature artwork based on mythological themes in Kangra and Dakshini styles and in ‘Das Gurus’ (‘ten gurus’) in the Dakshini style of miniatures in Bengaluru. Experiments on different portable bases/grounds and mediums are being explored to make a pilot project of mohrakashi technique and compositions.