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Down memory lane

art-and-culture Updated: Jan 14, 2010 19:41 IST

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In his new series of works, leading Indian contemporary artist Krishen Khanna has travelled back in time to his days in pre-partition Lahore, which today lies in Pakistan.

“They are mostly a recollection of events that I have seen in my early childhood — when tension between the British rulers and Indian freedom fighters was escalating,” said Delhi-based Khanna.

The 84-year-old artist’s retrospective exhibition opens in the Capital next week. The show has been organised by the Mumbai-based online art gallery, Saffronart.

Khanna has completed five large format oil compositions in monochrome, which he says are an extension of his memories of Maclagan Road in Lahore, where he lived in a cosmopolitan neighbourhood “with Parsis, Sikhs, Christians and Muslims”.

“The series begins with an oil drawing of Gurbaksh Rai, an old homeopathic doctor saying goodbye to his family after being arrested by police. He was an ardent Congressman.

I have used monochrome because if there is something I want to say, it is best to avoid the dynamics of colour. Then you are not dealing with the man — the subject matter — any more,” Khanna said.

The retrospective spans six of Khanna’s works from 1943. “One had to be choosy about the art works, but several of my compositions — especially the black-and-white series — are abroad in the US and Europe. There are a lot of holes in the chronology,” Khanna said.

Walking down memory lane, the artist said he enjoyed working on his Black-and-White series of ink sketches that he started on while in Honolulu.

“I worked in a bath tub because I feared messing up the room. Most of them were shapes that I saw at the bottom of the tub. I used to pour water through the sides of the papers in rivulets to smudge the colours on the surface for a blurred look. It was a convenient method.

Khanna lamented that “his friend Tyeb Mehta, who grew up with him Lahore, could not manage a retrospective”. “I am lucky that I did,” he said.

The exhibition is on from January 23 to February 5 at the Lalit Kala Akademi, Ferozeshah Road, Connaught Place.