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Item Description:

Oil on canvas


59 1/2 x 42 1/4 in. (151.2 x 107.3 cm.)

Signed, dated and inscribed 'K. Khanna / Hyderabad / 22 Nov. 74' on reverse

Krishen Khanna’s paintings often reflect the harsh social realities of his surroundings. The early 1970s saw the first of several series where he would make ‘the non-persons of the Indian streets’ the main protagonists in his paintings. The first group to occupy the canvas were the bandwallas in their colourful uniforms followed a decade later by the migrant labourers and truck drivers sipping hot masala chai in roadside dhabas on cold winter nights along North India’s highways.

In-between the two, Khanna painted a series of works titled Rear View that depicted construction workers and labourers, specifically highlighting their working conditions in the rapidly developing dusty concrete metropolis of Delhi. The series showed figures huddled together at the back of open trucks, their clothes and faces covered with a film of grey dust that revealed the grim reality of their jobs. Even though they sit in close proximity to each other, they don’t appear to converse much, instead, enjoying the few moments of seeming solitude and silence after a long day of physically challenging work. The works are painted in monochromatic grey and white tones, to highlight the grime on their clothes and bodies as it gets reflected in the glare of oncoming cars that shatter their few moments of peace by literally and metaphorically shining a light into their worlds and exposing their harsh realities. ‘Their state of rootlessness and overcrowding on the rough city streets is emphasised in their animal-like forward backward placement in the truck.’ (Gayatri Sinha, Krishen Khanna, A Critical Biography, New Delhi, 2001, p. 116)

Delhi gradually registered its presence on Krishen’s canvas with its sharp economic disparity, its overbearing political presence. As a city of political bosses and a swelling labour force it became an ideal backdrop for him to realise what interested him most: the continuity and contrast between the mundane and the sublime, the ordinary and the epic dimension. It would not be wrong to say that Krishen’s interest in human endeavour is really pitched at the opposite ends of the banal and the epoch-making: the oscillation between these extremes determines his responses to the personal and the political.’ (ibid., p. 98)

About The Artist:


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