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Krishen Khanna

 (born 1925)
Krishen Khanna is active/lives in India, Pakistan.  Krishen Khanna is known for abstract painting and sculpture.

Krishen Khanna

Biography from the Archives of askART

Born in 1925 in what is now Faislabad in Pakistan, Krishen Khanna grew up in Lahore, only studying art after he graduated from college at evening classes held at the Mayo School of Art there.  In 1947, Khanna's family moved to Shimla as a result of the Partition of India and Pakistan, and Khanna was deeply affected by not only the change in his personal life, but also the socio-political chaos that reigned around him.  His early works are reproductions of the scenes that were indelibly imprinted in his memory during this period.

Most of Khanna's work is figurative; he chose to not explore the abstraction that most of his contemporaries were delving into. In an interview with Saffronart he said: "I used to do abstracts earlier and I have now moved on to human forms. I thought that the person or the individual is being neglected - the person in a particular situation who is influenced by the conditions around. I want to now emphasize the human beings caught up in their particular condition."

Bordering on the narrative, Khanna's work captures moments in history, much like photographs do, but the artist's technique is far from photo-realist.  Khanna transfers his observations onto the canvas with spontaneity and exuberance, keeping the representational elements of his subject matter intact.  The artist's use of colour and his expressionist brushwork make the mundane rise to the challenge of the creative.

A largely self-taught artist, Khanna studied at the Imperial Service College, Windsor, England, from where he graduated in 1940.  After his family's move to India, a job with Grindlays Bank brought him to Bombay where he was invited to be a part of the now famous Progressive Artists' Group.  The first exhibition in which Khanna's works were featured was one of this Group's exhibitions held in 1949. In 1955, Khanna had his first solo show at the USIS, Chennai, and since then has bee n exhibiting his work widely in India and abroad. Among his recent solo exhibitions are 'The Savage Heart' at Cymroza Art Gallery, Mumbai, in 2008; Saffronart and Berkeley Square Gallery, London, in 2005; and 'An Airing' at Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai, in 2004.

Recognizing his immense contribution to Indian Art, the Government of India has bestowed several honours upon him including the Lalit Kala Ratna from the President of India in 2004 and the Padma Shri in 1990. In 1964, Khanna was artist-in-residence at the American University, Washington D.C., and the next year, he won a fellowship from the Council for Economic and Cultural Affairs, New York following the travel grant they had awarded him in 1962.

Krishen Khanna lives and works in New Delhi.

Saffron Art

Biography from Christie's Mumbai
One of the most successful artists to come out of Pakistan, Krishen Khanna is largely a self-taught painter who began adulthood as a banker.  Born in Lyallpur (modern day Faisalabad) in what is today Pakistan, he grew up most of his young life in Lahore, leaving to attend secondary school at Imperial Service College, in Windsor, England, graduating and returning to Lahore in 1942.  While there, he earned an English degree Government College, before becoming an officer with Grindlay's Bank. 

Following the partition of India in 1947, his family fled the newly-created Pakistan for Shimla, India, a rupture that would deeply affect the way he viewed the world. He began attending evening classes at Lahore's Mayo School of Art.  His banking job eventually brought him to Mumbai, where his side career as an artist began to take off.  By 1961, already in his late 30s, he was able to quit his banking career to become a full-time artist.  In 1962 Khanna was the first Indian artist to be awarded a traveling fellowship from the John D. Rockefeller III Council for Economic and Cultural Affairs (CECA) in New York, which he used to go to the Far East, including Japan, where he was greatly influenced by the art of Sumi-e (Suibokuga) practiced by Zen Buddhists there around 1330.  In 1964 he was granted an artist residency at American University, in Washington, D.C., and won a fellowship from the CECA, which brought him to New York, where he began experimenting with Abstract Expressionism.  Khanna has described his technique as a process of welcoming the unpredictable to achieve something serendipitous, combining calligraphy with chance whilst removing all extraneous figuration and detail from the picture plane.  His work has often focused on music and musicians, as though he were trying to capture its undulating rhythms in oil and in two dimensions.  He has also dwelled on sacred mythologies, both local and foreign.  At the age of six Khanna's father came back from Milan with a copy of The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci, thus initiating a lifelong fascination with Christian imagery.

 In 1990 he was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri, one of the Indian government's highest civilian awards, and in 1997 he received the Kala Ratna from the All India Fine Arts & Crafts Society.  He has participated in the Venice, São Paulo, Havana and Tokyo biennales and in the International Triennale in New Delhi.  He has exhibited in solo and group shows around the world, in places like New York, London, New Orleans, Honolulu, Oxford, Washington, D.C., Geneva, and at the festival of India in Japan.  He lives and works in New Delhi

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About  Krishen Khanna

Born:  1925 - Faislabad, Pakistan
Known for:  abstract painting and sculpture