Saturday, May 4, 2013

An artist as homo-eroticism his core theme

A press release accompanying an exhibition of works by late Bhupen Khakhar courtesy Grosvenor Gallery highlights the several major aspects of his illustrious career:
  • Largely self-taught, Bhupen Khakhar developed a cleanly executed, richly colored style in oil, watercolor and gouache. His focus on narratives, which combined daily life and fantasy, stood in contrast to the abstraction and expressive figuration that prevailed among progressive artists of an older generation.
  • He set himself further apart from the earlier generation in the 1980's when he made his homosexuality a chief subject of his art. The artist called this as the ‘gay period’, in which he tried to explore and represent the world of homosexuals as he knew and understood it. First came the small figures of male nudes. The figures got bigger and bigger; then came the solitary large male nudes and then two male nudes together.
  • The artist then had noted: "I have chosen homo-eroticism as a theme because I am gay. What is happening in India - social rejection - did happen once in countries like USA and Europe. The police in all societies have beaten up gays and lesbians. But now they have been accepted by society. For me, there is nothing unnatural about homosexuality."
  • In his sketching, a practice he maintained throughout his career, Khakhar showed his untutored, candid best. His drawings which filled many sketch books functioned as a ready pool of visual notations which he sometimes used discreetly while visualizing his more ambitious creative endeavors in figurative oil and watercolor works as well as in prints. His openness to the life of the people around him lent an authenticity of the sketches. A few of them reveal the playful imagination of indulgent sexual self- seeing reveries; often they seem too real to be in reality.
  • Drawn while day-dreaming while sitting in his home studio or while on his many travels, particularly to small pilgrimage towns and country sides he exposes best his vulnerabilities. With their disarming simplicity and directness, they are closest to his watercolors and prints. While many of his oil paintings are passionately laboured and anxiety ridden, worked-over for long periods of time, the sketching and watercolors eased him, often lending them an uninhibited disarming wit, spontaneity and even an uncanny quirkiness and bizarre realness.

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