Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Art, for me, is the ultimate bliss…’

Summing up his philosophy, Krishen Khanna has once stated: “Art, for me, is the ultimate bliss. Art can provide you with the metaphysical answers you have been looking for even whilst you are involved in its creation. They call it drawing. I really have no name for it. It's a compulsion, an itch. The more I scratch, the more I want to continue. It is enjoyable but it can also hurt when nothing emerges but an incomprehensible mess.”

In his series put up as part of a grand retrospective show in 2010 at LKA, Delhi, this largely self-taught artist rewound the clock back to his pre-partition life in Lahore - largely a recollection of events from his early childhood, when fight between Indian freedom fighters and the British rulers was at its peak.

There were large format oil compositions done in monochrome that serve as an extension of his memories in Lahore’s cosmopolitan settings. He used monochrome because, to put it in the artist’s words, if there’s something I wish to say, it's best to avoid the dynamics of color.

The series also comprised an oil drawing of an old homeopathic doctor and an ardent Congressman, Gurbaksh Rai, bidding goodbye to his family members after being arrested by the British police. One of his canvases depicts his uncle going to a neighboring town along with his family. He was stopped in the way by the police, and threatened to shoot him. Fortunately, they didn't! Another of his compositions is about the blood-filled violence after the partition.

Born in Lyallpur (now Faislabad, Pakistan), he first studied at the Mayo School of Art, Lahore. He came to Shimla during the days of India’s partition. After arriving there, he joined the Grindlays Bank in Mumbai, and later became part of the Progressive Artists’ Group. He was awarded the Rockefeller Fellowship in 1962 and was also Artist-in-Residence at the American University, Washington (1963-64). He was awarded the Padma Shree in 1996.  The veteran artist's dynamic oeuvre is a testimony to his enriching art and life.

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