Goodness only knows if posterity would ever knock at the door of my studio and were I to have started in the hope of expectation that this angel would notice me, I doubt that I would have done whatever I have. When you wait expectantly for a welcome guest, you cannot think of working. Maybe this attitude might anger the angel - so be it.

You would have me lie on an analysts’ couch start unwinding, laying bare my soul, making me decide which of my works is outstanding in my view, how I began & and what urged me & finally what is my greatest shortcoming. This entire process would take a very long time, perhaps the rest of my days - which may of course be not that long, but at the end of it when my secret is revealed to me there may be nothing else for me to do. So, for sheer self-preservation I would let the ghosts & demons remain where they are without exorcizing them. I really cannot say when it all began. Like most children who are considered by fond parents as possessing genius, I was spared regular art teachers and art schools. I fumbled along deriving enormous satisfaction. The idea of becoming a full time artist came much later after I had been a printer in Lahore & spent fourteen years in a bank after Partition. Who knows, I may have been punching paper in treadle machines if it hadn’t been for the Partition. Things aren’t so simple are they?

Which work remains most in my memory? My Goodness, they all do. It’s like asking which of your children do you remember most? It’s a long process & none of the incidents which constitute it are without meaning & value. To be sure some works are destroyed & find their way into the scrap heap, but they too serve a purpose & a function. Maybe they were inadequate, too ambitious for their time or suffered death by too much care or simply by a loss of nerve. Failures are no less important. Behind a seemingly successful phase are a mountain of blunders. To pick out the highlights would be to isolate them from a process which fills my life. I regard the act as sacrosanct & not the occasional “masterpiece”. What critics, connoisseurs & people in general like or dislike are matters of their choice to which they have every right. I may or may not agree. It doesn’t seem to matter much in the end. Yet, having said all this I do engage in serious discussions with a handful of friends and as often as not such discussions only serve to demarcate differences. Sometimes, and these are blessed moments, there are illuminations and further possibilities come to light.

Maybe my greatest shortcoming is contained in what I have already said. A refusal to be tied down to an image either in the minds if of others or in my own.

Krishen Khanna

18th Nov ‘94



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