Modern artist Bhupen Khakhar’s works are all about everyday life filled with sensuality
Robust colours, erotica and something from everyday life - Bhupen Khakhar’s exhibits offer all of this and a lot more. The collection of 149 art works, on display at the Swaraj Archives in Noida, stands testimony to the process of the famed artist’s spectacular trajectory.
Former NGMA director Rajiv Lochan, who has curated the show “Liberation, Revelation/Representation: The art of Bhupen Khakhar”, describes the artist’s approach as “naive, supple sensuality”. Something as mundane as a dog, a donkey or a wall clock were a source of inspiration to him, as were complex physical encounters - hetero or homosexual.
Lochan said Khakhar’s lack of formal art education worked in his favour, allowing him unconditional freedom of thought, content and expression. “The unskilled part was his strength,” Lochan told PTI. The show seems not so much about individual artwork as it is about the journey of the artist who died in 2003.
The exhibits include a 1989 watercolour of Ratnagiri with hutments flanked by familiar shades of blue waters, a semi-abstract landscape of 1990 and a more defined recreation of the Milan airport a decade later. The later works, particularly the etchings, underline his distinctive style.
The uncountable lines of black ink cut each other almost maddeningly to create bold, unapologetic images of embrace and unison. His saturated colour palette is another aspect of his remarkable technique. His bright yellows, blues and reds, when put together against a white background, pierce the eyes, making it impossible to look away from all the drama.
So much so that in one of his works depicting a sexual encounter involving two men and a woman, one doesn’t know what demands more attention -- the bold subject or the unconventional colour scheme. The artist’s choice of hues, Lochan said, took the scenes he created “beyond their mundane reality”.
The show also gives an insight into the vast range of mediums he had put to use -- from watercolour, acrylic, crayon, charcoal, sketch pen on paper, to oil on canvas, acrylic on fabric and mixed media on terracotta and ceramic.
Lochan said Khakhar’s works spoke an inimitable language and the artist had the ability to fuse mundane realities of everyday life and personal fantasies. “The imagery and colours influenced from ordinary life, subconscious, experiences and desires make his personal fantasies engaging,” Lochan said. The exhibition also features a number of self portraits, as well as some depictions by artist Jyotindra Manshankar Bhatt.
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