Malout boy’s work rooted in soil
Nirupama Dutt
-The Tribune Chandigarh, Feb.2005

Among the young group artists who graduated from the Chandigarh College of Art in the mid-eighties was Kanwal Dhaliwal. This Malout boy showed a lot of promise even in his early work and more so for it was work rooted in the soil. "Ours was a backward area and while I was fond of drawing, I did not know that something like art colleges existed on the face of the earth. For us in Malout the only career options were to be a doctor, engineer, a teacher or a clerk," says the artist looking back.
However, someone told him that there was one such college in Chandigarh and so he came here and found a whole new world opening up before him. He came into contact with senior city painters like Raj Kumar and Sidharth and also their intellectual supporter, Prof Laali. This imparted him the strength to take subjects from his own rural environs and rework them in the contemporary form and style. A series of sculptures in terracotta on the faces of village women brought him a lot of notice as well as his paintings portraying the common Punjabi folk in the environment of the law courts.
The artist, who has been living and working in London for the past eight years, always experimented with the face divided into two. This is a form that he further exploited in his work abroad working on the cultural divide. Kanwal says: "I immigrated out of choice, yet I missed my land and culture. Thus the divided faces became representative of the cultural divide that I experience and am still experiencing." In this period Kanwal has also worked on the old trees to be found in the rural landscape and this is his metaphor for a yearning for the roots.

Nonika Singh
-Hundustan Times, Chandigarh, Feburary 2005

His imagery is as eloquent as the measured words he chooses.Kanwal Dhaliwal, UK based, city's own artist and alumnus of Government College of Art here doesn't lace his observations with honeyed sweetness or hypocritical duality. Rather he explores the dilemma of Punjabi migrants through his work.
Sardonically he professes " Not only is art universal, but even human beings are the same world over." And yet he deems displaced beings find it difficult to adapt to alien nations. Why? "Immigration is not natural but self-inflicted". Interestingly he who labels the new generation as "half divided" feels that the older one hasn't changed at all. In fact the very first time he encountered Punjabi faces in UK's shopping centres, he was disturbed by the uncanny realisation, "It was as if they had moved from one village to another, from one cocoon to yet another". In fact his works reflect this very predicament. In one particular sculpture, he juxtaposes three generations, where the new 'lost' generation is depicted colourless, symbolising their cultural divorce. In yet another work he compares immigrants to a rootless tree, severed off by a silver line, indicating a grip of material world, further enhanced by gold leaves. He muses, " I agree that an art work isn't mere story telling but ought to convey" Employing identifiable forms like trees, architectural images and above all expressive faces in his creative expression, each facet of his work communicates. He says " Undisputedly my works are not realistic (academic) but nor are they abstract. Abstraction at best was an experiment, which equipped artists with freedom of expression. Now we must use it sensibly.

Prem Singh
-The Tribune, Chandigarh, February 1995

Growing up having a rural background naturally gave Kanwal Dhaliwal the subject matter for his artistic expressions. He studied with intense perception life and landscape of the village and expressed it through study, acquaintance, photography and sketching.
Kanwal was specially fascinated by 'deorhee' a place in a village house. Here at this place village women of all classes and categories grouped together and talked their hearts out. From dawn to dusk womenfolk could be seen coming and going to share their sorrows and happiness. Kanwal felt here was the core of culture where one could observe the totality of life. He studied with love and care the faces of women of all age groups talking about their experiences of life in general or particular instances amongst themselves. The intense drama of life stimulated Kanwal's imagination and found expression in his sketches, drawings, paintings and sculptures.
The suggestion of three-dimensionality in his drawings inspired him to take to sculpture. Initially he chose clay intentionally for its texture, colour and fragrance. He also believes that clay when baked loses its earthy feeling. He integrated architecture with the faces of the village folk, which not only manifested a sense of belonging but also the serenity of the village life. Clay, no doubt gave his sculptures a distinct identity but he discontinued it because of its fragile nature. So he opted for wood, stone, and metal with the belief that it will not affect his content and feeling. Though the size of sculptures is small but if one is gifted with clarity of vision and thought, the same smallness may appear monumental.
Kanwal Dhaliwal is totally attuned to the village and is singing the song of its life and nature. His drawings, paintings and sculptures have the native beauty expressed with vigour and vitality derived from the place of its birth. A simple 'deorhee' becomes a metaphor in the hands of the creative artist to express the moment and movement and the rhythm and unity of Indian life and thought.

An Ambassador’s Choice
The Dutch Ambassador to India has assembled together one of the finest collections of contemporary Indian art, reports Renuka Khandekar.- Indian Express, New Delhi, December 1990.

….Perhaps her most stunning discovery is an obscure young artist teaching “somewhere in Himachal Pradesh” called Kanwal Dhaliwal. His painting of a rural face that blends in with the cracked earth and gnarled tree roots of the soil, his marvelous terra cotta of a Punjabi woman in her house, a startling three sided creation that searingly depicts the lot of the women, raises the immediate question: why isn’t this obviously gifted artist raised from obscurity by our own lot of patrons?