Sohan Qadri was born to a wealthy farming family in the village of Chachoki in Punjab, near Kapurthala. At the age of seven, he came across two spiritualists living on the family farm –Bikham Giri, a Bengali tantric-vajrayan yogi, and Ahmed Ali Shah Qadri, a sufi. Both gurus had a tremendous impact on young Qadri and taught him spiritual ideals through meditation, dance and music. His association with them heralded a lifelong commitment to spirituality and art.
Escaping from the assigned duty of farming, young Qadri first fled to the Himalayas and then made his way into Tibet, staying in monasteries for several months, living among spiritualists and forest dwellers. On being compelled to return, Qadri took up painting. The visual language upon which he and his contemporaries built their vocabulary was already defined by the Calcutta Group and the Progressive Artists’ Group in Bombay. However, they rejected the reliance on figuration considered ‘authentically Indian’ and veered towards abstraction, with several of them eventually abandoning representation altogether in a search of transcendence or a new expression. ‘When I start on a canvas,’ Qadri is known to have said, ‘I first empty my mind of all images. They dissolve into a primordial space. Only emptiness, I feel, should communicate with the emptiness of the canvas.’ His Dot series is a visual manifestation of the artist’s meditative abstraction.
Qadri’s works are part of collections in Cologne, New York, Salem, New Jersey, Paris and, of course, India. A longtime resident of Copenhagen, where he painted and taught yoga, Sohan Qadri passed away in Toronto, Canada, in 2011.