LONDON.- Grosvenor Gallery
presents an exhibition featuring works by Bhupen Khakhar from a Private British Collection. This year marks the 10th death anniversary for the artist and the gallery is commemorating him by including drawings, watercolours and a few paintings made during the late 70s to the early 80s. The gallery is showing a film titled Messages from Bhupen Khakhar by Judy Marle during the exhibition which runs until 3 May 2013.
Bhupen Khakhar studied accounting and explored art in his spare time. After meeting the painter Gulammohammed Sheikh in 1958, he decided to attend art school in Baroda, where he joined a circle of contemporaries who were shaping a new Indian art, among them Mr. Sheikh, Nilima Sheikh, Nalina Malani, Vivan Sundaran and the critic Geeta Kapur.
In 1962 Khakhar was introduced to Pop Art. It, as well as the work of Henri Rousseau, David Hockney and early Italian Renaissance painting, had a lasting effect on him, as did earlier Indian modernism, Rajput miniature painting, popular religious art and his own observation of urban street life.
Several of the pictures of the early 1970s resemble shop signs for tailors, barbers, watch repairers, with vividly and crisply realised props. Implicit in paintings is a humorous acceptance and celebration of a culture previously disregarded, a hybrid, half-westernised culture of lower-middle class urban Indians, for whom Khakhar could act as spokesman.
Largely self-taught, 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 his many oil paintings are passionately labored 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.
Bhupens work began to be included in big international exhibitions. He had his first exhibition in london in 1979 with Anthony Stokes and Hester von Royden and in 1983 he had a show with Kasmin at the Knoedler Gallery. In 1986 he had a show at the Pompidou Center in Paris. Bhupen was also the subject of a book by the British artist Timothy Hyman and a film by Judy Marle. Bhupens works continue to be present in the best collections both in India and Abroad.