Vancouver artist Jessie Sohpaul creates art that explores the intersections of eastern and western culture, as well as what it means to be a part of the Punjabi diaspora.

He recently shared a short film that showcases his work and explores the idea of “Home” and what it means to be a part of the South Asian diaspora.

The film, aptly named “Coming Home,” is an extension of Sohpaul’s creative endeavours, which work to combine his Punjabi experience with the art world.

“The story itself is kind of like an art gallery space meets a Punjabi household,” he said in an interview with 5X Press.

“An art gallery for me growing up always felt very sterile and unwelcoming. On the flip side, a Punjabi household is the opposite. It's lively, kind of all over the place, warm and inviting.”

The film was meant to show the bridging of the two worlds.

“You have aspects in the film where someone's dropping oil at the doorway, and then the next scene is showcasing artwork. So it's kind of almost like welcoming this new body of work into a household or gallery.”

Sohpaul, who shares his creations under the brand & art gallery “Do Not Touch,”  said he has always had an interest in art from a young age, and was grateful his parents allowed him to explore his interest on his own terms.

“Their philosophy was always, just do what you want. Don't come to us in 10 years and be like, I did this job because of you and I hate it.”

“I feel like if there was a little bit of friction, I maybe wouldn't have done it.”

He said he was 12 when he realized he wanted to take art more seriously, and at the time, thought he would one day become a comic book artist.

As time went on, Sohpaul worked on his drawing skills, and transitioned into photoshop and working with digital design before studying design in university.

“I was always doing art on the side still, even when I was in university. But it was always like a hobby in many ways,” said Sohpaul.

He was working in San Francisco as a designer and started to use his free time to create “fusion art” that represented his experience from a South Asian lens.

“When I moved to SF, that web of connection, of family, didn't disappear, but it was at a distance. So there was always this longing of ‘how do I showcase the story or the Punjabi aspect of it, the heritage?’” he said.

“The way I thought of it was, what if I was the last Punjabi person left, and I'm in SF, what would that story look like? How do you kind of keep that story going?” 

He said the short film, Coming Home, was an extension of that experience.

“The last Punjabi person standing in SF... if I was to kind of create some sort of artwork, or that look, it pretty much is this film,” he said. 

“There's stuff that isn't traditionally Punjabi, but as time progresses, nothing is gonna be the same. It's almost like what does future nostalgia look like? In like, 100 years, what's going to be Punjabi?”

His art has always been a way to showcase his identity, and as he shared it online, he realized how many people resonated. 

“The art was made because I wanted to make it. There was no intention, like, oh, ‘I want someone to buy it, I want someone to wear it,’” Sohpaul said. 

“It came from a more genuine place. But I think because of that, it was able to resonate with so many people. I feel like if people make something out of passion, good things will just come out of it eventually. 

A few years back, he was sharing his work on a Tumblr blog called “Do Not Touch," which is now the name of his brand.

“You go to an art gallery, you see the sign that says ‘Do not touch.’ So, if someone goes to a gallery, they see ‘Do not touch,’ they might associate it with my artwork,” he said.

“It’s kind of meta, but it's like maybe my art can be in their head while they're in the gallery.”

From there he began showcasing his work on Instagram, & selling prints and clothing before things took off.

Recently, Sohpaul said he has quit his job to pursue art full time, and the short film was one way to showcase the work he had created during the pandemic.

A notable moment he shared, was when his clothing designs were featured in a music video for Punjabi artist Jaz Dhami. 

He said some advice Jaz gave him stuck with him to this day.

“He told me ‘you should just focus on art. You should quit and  focus on it, because you're really good at it,” said Sohpaul.

“I said, ‘yeah, I can always go back to doing design work in the industry as a corporate job,’  and then he was like, ‘no, once you quit you focus on it and never look back. I'm like, ‘Oh, shit, like, that's some good advice.’”

We for one, can’t wait to see where Jessie’s artistic endeavours take him next.

Watch the short film here:


Director: @jessiesohpaul Jessie Sohpaul

DOP: @trevorkomori Trevor Komori

Art Director: @heyjuuuude Judy Zheng

Actors: @gabriellekaurcheema Gabrielle Cheema

@guntajdeepsingh Guntajdeep Singh

@xx.smrn Simran Johar

Hair and Makeup: @insha_artistry Insha Pathan

Gaffer/1st AC: @luke_strahm Luke Strahm

Production Assistant: @cjyho Chris Ho

AD Assistant : Natalie Hopson

Photography: @a_ria_h Ariella ilona 

Colorist: @devanagscott. Devan Scott

About the author

Rumneek Johal

Rumneek is a journalist, host and speaker. She is currently the BC Reporter at Press Progress where she focuses on systemic inequality, workers and communities, as well as racism and far-right extremism. Her previous work centers on asking tough questions within her community, starting conversation and chipping away at the status quo. Other focus areas for her work include the South Asian community, arts and culture, pop culture, and more. She is a proud Punjabi woman from Surrey, BC.

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5X Press is a forum for opinions, conversations, & experiences, powered by South Asian youth. The views expressed here are not representative of those of 5X Festival.