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From Partition to Covid pandemic, Krishen Khanna’s canvas encompasses it all

“Of course I still paint,” says Krishen Khanna, the final of India’s surviving modernists, somewhat shocked he’s requested the question at all.     

In truth, stated the artist who celebrated his 96th birthday earlier this month, he’s at all times engaged on one thing, nonetheless discovering out issues, nonetheless thrilled by the very act of portray.      

“Art is not just about making faces or drawing this or that. It’s the churning of the spirit inside, which is far more important. Everything else then falls into place,” Khanna instructed PTI in a telephone interview, the sheer pleasure of portray in the present day and each day to come evident in his voice.        



If ‘age is just a number’, the artist, who spans the historical past of up to date India from Partition to the pandemic in his works, is the one who epitomises it.        

In May this year, Khanna was scheduled to journey to London for an exhibition on the Grosvenor Gallery. That acquired cancelled due to the second COVID-19 wave, and he subsequently hosted a digital exhibition, “Krishen Khanna: Paintings from my sitting room” from his Gurgaon house.         

“I am always working on something. It might be a drawing or a painting,” Khanna stated in response to a question on what he’s engaged on. To him, making a murals is akin to a spontaneous however lengthy dialog between the artist and his creation, a course of that has been central to his complete existence.       

 “…sometimes you go straight into a painting. It won’t wait for any deliberations… you have to attack it. And once you start, then the painting starts talking back to you. And it’s a long conversation.  

“It’s not that you will always know what to do. You don’t. And I think that is the absolute thrill of painting. You are finding out things all the time. That’s beautiful.”        

Having lived by Partition in 1947 and now the COVID-19 pandemic, and all the things in between, Khanna has seen it all. It is maybe this wealthy life expertise that has impressed his versatile oeuvre comprising work, drawings, and sketches, each figurative and summary.          

But he doesn’t have a favorite medium or kind.         “It’s not like a marriage… I have known so many women, but the ultimate is my wife,” he laughed.          

Born on July 9, 1925 in Faisalabad in present-day Pakistan, Khanna went by the trauma of being uprooted from his house when was in his early 20s, an expertise that influenced numerous his works. 

His collection on the ‘bandwallahs’ of Mumbai, truck drivers, and work impressed by his experiences of Partition are amongst his greatest recognized.      

After transferring to India following Partition, the sensation of being dislocated from a spot that one calls house appeared ever current. He noticed this sense of being displaced within the a whole bunch of truck drivers travelling out and in of Delhi, and within the anonymous, purple uniformed ‘bandwallahs’ in Mumbai.       

“I internalise what other people are going through…that is what I am going through also. I am not illustrating their lives. I used to see these fellows everyday… hundreds of trucks in Bhogal (in Delhi where many Sikhs migrated to after Partition, most of them becoming truck drivers) and talk to them. It was their livelihood.        

“They were also people who were victims of Partition and they had no place to live in, so they lived in the trucks. They ate in the truck, and the truck was their home. The same thing with the ‘bandwallahs’. They were dislocated like everybody else was. I have great sympathies with these people,” the artist stated. Khanna talks with the identical compassion in regards to the lakhs of migrants who lost their livelihoods and have been compelled to journey again in vehicles, on bicycles and in addition on foot again to their villages due to the pandemic.        

“Even today, when Covid has pushed so many people out of their jobs, and they have gone back to their villages…you know it is not a very happy situation.”         Whether the artist’s sympathies for many who have been a part of this human tragedy have reworked into artworks but, he didn’t reveal.         

Khanna took up artwork professionally when he was in 40s, after 14 years of working as a banker. “(But) I was doing art all the time. From the age of seven or eight or nine, I think, and it was encouraged by my family. My father liked it. He himself used to paint, and it just grew out of that.          

“I was in school in Lahore where I sat for some examination, which I did not know at the time was for the Royal Drawing Society in London. I got two certificates from there… that’s about as much as I received from my art training in a sense,” he stated.         His job at Grindlays Bank that took him to Bombay (now Mumbai) the place he joined the long-lasting Bombay Progressive artists group in 1950 that inspired the appearance of avant-garde artwork in India.         In 1962, he acquired the Rockefeller Fellowship, turning into the primary Indian artist to accomplish that. 

Recalling his early days with contemporaries resembling M F Husain, F N Souza, S H Raza, V S Gaitonde, Tyeb Mehta, Akbar Padamsee and Ram Kumar, he stated they have been the “closest of friends”.  

Life has gotten somewhat bit lonelier.        

“When one painting was done, it would be seen by all. There would be discussions. And they were honest discussions. It wasn’t just ‘patting you on the back’.        “We were the closest and dearest of friends, and the most honest to each other…something would happen and Husain would say, ‘yeh kya kar diya’ (what have you done?) I had all of my friends who are gone now. So, in a sense I am a little lonely on that score,” Khanna stated.         

To them, he stated, artwork by no means was the “industry” it is made out to be in the present day. “It’s not an industry. They are trying to make it…people with galleries… It is nice, of course, to have galleries, but the people who run these galleries also have got to be of a certain kind of spirit,” he stated. 

This story has been revealed from a wire company feed with out modifications to the textual content. Only the headline has been modified.


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