Sunday, April 14, 2013

Tracing a veteran artist's career graph

“In my compositions, I’ve always tried to capture human emotions, and not make life studies," Krishen Khanna has once revealed. Born in Lahore in 1925, he learnt art at evening classes conducted at the Mayo School of Art, Lahore. In the wake of India’s Partition, he moved to Simla, and thereafter to New Delhi. The young artist came into prominence after he started exhibiting his work at the Bombay Art Society, and was invited in 1949 to show with the Progressives. In the mid-fifties he became a full time painter, giving up his career as a banker.

Apart from over 40 one-man shows at several leading galleries in India and abroad, his selected group exhibits are 'A Collection', Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai (2010-11); '10 x 10', Gallery Threshold, Delhi; ‘Black is Beautiful', India Fine Art, Mumbai; 'Essential, Eclectic,...Ephemeral', The Harrington Mansions, Kolkata (all in 2010); 'Bharat Ratna!', Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; 'Master Class', The Arts Trust, Mumbai; 'Kalpana', courtesy ICCR at Aicon Gallery, London (all in 2009).

He won the National Award of the LKA, Delhi in 1965 and the Gold Medal at the First Triennale of Contemporary World Art, Delhi in 1968. He was also awarded the Padma Shri in 1990. Art is his potent medium of communicating apparently ordinary cultural happenings that he make noteworthy through his acute observation and execution. His drawings give the everyday observations their due like in the Bandwalla series.

A strong bond marks the artist’s relationship with his subject matter as part of a quest to unravel the mystery of existence. Summing up his philosophy as an artist, he narrates: “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. Yet, for me, art is the ultimate bliss...”

In 2011 he was honored with the Padma Bhushan, the country’s second highest civilian award, for his exceptional and distinguished career.

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