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'Labour of love': Australian artist shares story behind viral Golden Temple painting


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'Labour of love': Australian artist shares story behind viral Golden Temple painting



Published 25 August 2022 at 1:41pm, updated 25 August 2022 at 2:11pm
By Sumeet Kaur
Source: SBS


Australian artist Jamie Cooper’s painting of Sikh historical figures gathered at the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) has drawn praise from around the world. He tells SBS Punjabi that the commissioned work, which took 700 hours to complete, felt like a 'crash course’ on the faith’s history.

  • Jamie Cooper’s artwork depicting historical Sikh figures created a buzz in the Punjabi community around the world
  • The Australian artist says it took him 700 hours to complete the painting
  • Mr Cooper was 'surprised' to land the commission from a UK-based Sikh family
"It's probably the most detailed painting I've ever done in my 20-year art career," says the artist, who is a former professional Australian rules footballer.
The painstakingly detailed artwork depicts a scene in which many prominent Sikh figures from across history are gathered at the centuries-old Golden Temple, a gurdwara in Punjab, India, considered one of the faith's holiest sites.
Images of the commissioned work went viral recently - accruing more than 4,000 shares and 2,000 comments on the artist's professional Facebook page.
Jamie Cooper Artist - JCAP
about 2 months ago

This has been one of the most rewarding paintings I have produced in 25 years of commissioned work. A magical scene at the @goldentemple featuring significant figures in @sikh history from throughout the last century. A private commission, this was a deeply personal artwork for a beautiful, loving family who are a shining example of their faith. I feel humbled to have been entrusted with this task. Each person featured has personal significance to this family as does the room...

See more
May be an image of 8 people, people standing and indoor
May be an image of 7 people, people sitting, people standing and indoor
May be an image of 6 people
May be an image of 8 people and people standing
One Facebook user, Amardeep Kaur, commented: "Incredible work. We are so thankful to you that you have showcased our faith through this amazing artwork."
Another message of praise reads, "I’ve shown this to my Indian work colleagues. They were in awe of the painting."

'A new thing for me'

Mr Cooper, a sports artist known for bringing to life icons like Adam Goodes and Sergio Aguero, tells SBS Punjabi his painting of the Golden Temple was a big learning curve.
"It was completely different from my regular work; learning about Sikh culture and history was totally a new thing for me.
"As I started painting the room, I looked more closely at how beautiful the Golden Temple was and how much love and care had been put into making this building. It made me realise the beauty and importance of this place," he says.
jamie cooper golden temple painting
Former professional AFL player and artist Jamie Cooper. Credit: Supplied by Mr Cooper.
From a very young age, Mr Cooper has had a passion for creating historically-themed paintings.
Since retiring from the AFL after several seasons with Fitzroy in the 1980s, he has produced artworks for major sporting organisations like the Australian Olympic Committee and Australian Cricket Board, as well as some of the world's leading football and baseball clubs.
Mr Cooper says that even as a professional sportsperson, he was studying art and working as an illustrator: "Footie and art have always gone hand in hand for me."

An Aussie sports artist's surprise commission

Despite his many high-profile commissions, Mr Cooper reveals he was very surprised to be approached by a Sikh family from the UK.
"The family were Liverpool [FC] fans, and they saw a painting I did for Liverpool, which put together people from different times into one moment," Mr Cooper explains.
uk family sikh painting.jpg
Bobby Gill and Kaam Kaur: UK-based family who commissioned the Sikh artwork. Credit: Supplied by Mr Cooper.
"And this resonated with them because they as a family had been thinking about this very same idea independently of commemorating Sikh culture and history in a work of art."
The painting was commissioned by Bobby Gill, Kam Kaur and Harsimran Singh, who provided the artist with a map of where each historical figure should be placed.
I was just an instrument to bring the Sikh family's vision to life.
Jamie Cooper
"The images were taken from several hundred-year-old photographs because this scene does not exist," he says.

'Two years in the making'

Mr Cooper says the painting took two years - and 700 working hours - to complete, and that a lot of research and discussion went into the process before the finished artwork could be transported across the world from Australia to the UK.
"The family explained how the people in the painting should be sitting, who they should be next to, how they should be playing the tabla and the harmonium, how the turbans should be folded, what garments they should be wearing, the details of the Golden Temple itself," he shares.
giani amolak singh, randhir singh, basant singh
A close-up detail of the Golden Temple from the artwork. Credit: Supplied by Mr Cooper.
"I feel like I had a crash course on Sikh history."
Admitting he knew little about the Sikh community before this painting, Mr Cooper says he hopes to one day see the Golden Temple in person.
"The people who commissioned [the painting] said that this will be important to a lot of people in the community," he says.

'Thousands of messages from the global Sikh community'

Since sharing images of the painting online, Mr Cooper has received thousands of messages from around the world.
"I am overwhelmed and happy that it brought so much joy to the community," he says.
After being contacted by SBS Punjabi, the UK family who commissioned the artwork released a statement: "It was a dream scene, it has been a dream of ours for over 20 years to have something like this, and we are grateful that Jamie has delivered such a masterpiece."
We have had messages from around the world saying that the painting is unbelievable and the setting is so peaceful.
The UK-based Sikh family
Mr Cooper says that process of creating a moment that does not actually exist involves a lot of teamwork.
"Bobby, Kam and Sim gave me great direction on all the cultural sensitivities that I could not be aware of, not being of the Sikh community."
"It was all a labour of love and the most rewarding painting I have produced," he concludes.
Disclaimer: The interview was taken in July.
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