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Tribute to Bhupen


RAJAN M. Krishnan's charcoal and serigraphy on handmade paper depicting a seated Bhupen Khakkar in profile is a black and white drawing with the word `Citizen' blazed across it in red. It is one of the many pictures of the series titled `Citizen,' implying that at the root of an identity crisis is the degenerative insouciance that marks our society. Every being is just another inhabitant with simply a number separating him from the other.

Even as Bhupen rose to be one of the important artists of our times he remained just another face in the crowd. Ironically, in his death he seems to have found legitimate approval and acclaim. At least at the Kashi Art Café. The idea to pay tribute to this doyen of Indian contemporary art was mooted at the recently held Tree Festival. Perturbed that in his passing away Bhupen had generated little interest and was getting negligible column space in the print media, the artist community decided to display some of its works and dedicate them to his memory. The art café's role was limited to acting as coordinator and hub for 22 artists from Kerala who knew Bhupen and wanted to pay homage to him.

Even as the media found it hard to come to terms with his radical style, what his friends loved about him was that till the end he remained very much his own man. He stayed rooted to his middle class moorings and had no inhibitions in painting the man on the street and identifying with him. In characteristic irreverence to highbrow art he catapulted the local man on centre stage of his composition. For example, 'Man with bouquet of plastic flowers,' done in 1976. Along the same lines, Premjee T.P. doesn't stray far from the chosen domain of representing men and women who inhabit his native state. They typify the environment in which he has grown up. His maquette-sized figures in sculpture are a tribute to the working class hero. Tired bodies are kneaded and bent, but they are endowed with a calm spirituality that emanates from within.

Other interesting works are Nijeena Neelambaran's acrylic on canvas titled `Holes and Haloes,' where bubble-like haloes float in the sky above a parched ground,; Alex Mathew's portrait of Bhupen done in soft pastels on paper; the words `Tere Pyar Mein' emblazoned on the rear of an auto rickshaw by Abhimanyue V. G. In its narrative-figurative representation, it draws parallels with Bhupen's own style.

The exhibition that got underway on September 14 is on till October 10.

SUNANDA KHANNA

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