If by some chance an artist comes to be called a (modern) 'master' , you can bet
that our culturati will close their eyes, turn off their brains- which is actually
their default mode - and will be falling over each other to fawn over him. Renuka Narayan acts similarly in the Sunday edition of the Delhi Hindustan Times (Reg. req'd) , as she behaves like a court biographer in her article about the Delhi based senior painter Krishen Khanna. From her we learn that-
"Since 1956, Khanna has held over 40 one-man shows at galleries in India and abroad.
Art opportunities have included residencies and fellowships and official invitations
to the USA, Germany and Pakistan. India honoured him with a Padmashree in 1990. Next
week on March 19, the Royal Academy of Painting will feature an exhibition of
Khanna's work. A book on him with articles by international critics will be released
by Vikram Seth. There will certainly be comments on his decades-long obsession with
painting Delhi's ragtag companies of bandwalas: surreal figures, whose starved
bodies acquire tragicomic dignity with their gaudy uniforms and military bassoons
and drums. Nor can Khanna help constantly exploring New Testament figures: Christ,
the Pieta, a Last Supper from 1981 in sombre browns that radiates light even now. He
still paints five hours a day at a stretch. His work is hard to pigeonhole for it
inhabits a realm between the figurative and the abstract and he plays purposefully
with the spatula and the knife, rather than the brush, to build thousands of tiny
light-refracting surfaces on the paint."
Sounds good? But the proof of pudding, you know, is ...... Here is the pudding-
It is labeled as Khanna's masterpiece.
I suggest you have a long look at it, then perhaps you will know better about
the "closing their eyes, shutting their brains" thing. Can anybody tell why this is a masterpiece?
Can it be the drawing - which is so bad that one is tempted to conclude that Krishen Khanna can't (or won't) draw.
The perspective - of which any rational sense is missing?
The manner of putting paint on the paper - which is so amateurish that it should be (but isn't, sadly) unacceptable beyond the 1st year of BFA ?
Any sense of light or atmosphere- of which not much trace?
Could it be- wait!
What am I saying?! Drawing, perspective, handling of paint, sense of light... aren't they old-fashioned now? Aren't the modern 'masters' above these limiting concepts, free, free as a formless spirit to be 'creative' as they please?
So that leaves us with what? The choice of subject? The theme? Can a moving theme be sufficient if so badly painted? Or is it something else? Please enlighten us, Ms. Narayan. We are eager to drink from your cup of knowledge. Please do share your cup, even if it is a little jhootha, we will partake of it. You are our only hope. Please, please, please do tell us - what makes this a masterpiece?
While we wait( forever?) for the enlightenment, here is our compare and contrast section- a couple of similarly themed works from some real masters.
The descent from the cross, by Jean-Baptiste Jouvenet. View it here in it's full glory.
Copy after Deposition, by Hans Memling. View it here.
The Indian Colorful Language Translator-
Jhootha = tasted, partaken by someone else before( referring to foodstuffs)