Bhupen Khakar
Bhupen Khakar

Path-breaking modernist artist

  • This internationally recognised self-trained artist was known for his contemporary art that depicted mundane life and evoked gender identity as well as its social outlook.
PUBLISHED ON JAN 27, 2021 07:42 PM IST

BHUPEN KHAKHAR: This internationally recognised self-trained artist was known for his contemporary art that depicted mundane life and evoked gender identity as well as its social outlook.

Bhupen Khakhar spent his boyhood in the area called Khetwadi with his parents and three siblings. His father, Parmanand, was an engineer who died when Bhupen was only four years old. The Khakhars were originally artisans who came from the Portuguese colony of Diu.


Education and early career


Bhupen Khakhar was the first member of his family to attend the University of Bombay. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of Bombay in 1954, Bachelor of Commerce in 1956 and Bachelor of Commerce in Accounts and Auditing in 1958. He worked as an accountant for many years, partnering with Bharat Parikh and Associates in Baroda, Gujarat.


Interest in art


Aside from work, Khakhar pursued his artistic inclinations in free time. In 1958, he met the poet and painter Gulam Mohammed Sheikh who encouraged him to enroll for a two-year Master’s in Art Criticism course at MS University, Baroda in 1962. As a result, Khakhar soon became a core figure in the Baroda School; a group of figurative painters who were influential around that time.


Career as artist


Khakhar’s oil paintings were often narrative and autobiographical. Exhibitions of his art works began in 1965. By the 1980s, he was holding solo shows in London, Berlin, Amsterdam and Tokyo. Khakhar’s paintings often contained learned references to themes from Indian mythology as well as imaginative and deeply personal references.


The artist’s work celebrated the day to day struggles of the common man. He took special care to reproduce the environments of small shops in these paintings and revealed a talent for seeing and depicting the intriguing within the mundane. Aspects of gender definitions and gender identity were also major themes of his work.


In the 1990s, Khakhar began experimenting more with water colours and grew increasingly confident in both expression and technique. He was a long standing personal friend of British painter, Howard Hodgkin who often visited him.Though he was influenced by the British Pop movement, Khakhar understood that western versions of Pop Art would not fare the same in India then.


Recognition


In 2000, Khakhar was honoured with the Prince Claus Award at the Royal Palace of Amsterdam. Among other honours, he won the Asian Council’s Starr Foundation Fellowship, 1986 and the Padma Shri in 1984.


The accomplished artist passed away in Baroda on August 8, 2003.


Three retrospectives held in his honour included A Tribute to Bhupen Khakhar at the Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai, in 2004; Retrospective, National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai in 2003 and Bhupen Among Friends: A Tribute to Bhupen Khakhar by Friends: Amit Ambalal, Jogen Chowdhury, Anju Dodiya, Atul Dodiya and more at Gallery Chemould, Mumbai in 2005. In 2016, Tate Modern presented You Can’t Please All, the first international retrospective of Khakhar’s works since his death. The 1981 painting after which the Tate Modern exhibition is named, You Can’t Please All, takes its title from a fable by Aesop.

SOURCE: jnaf.org, Wikipedia

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