Krishen Khanna Archives

Exhibition of Paintings

23 - 30 November, 1948

Bombay Art Society Salon, Bombay

I was born in Goa, April 1924. My parents are Roman Catholics. I am an atheist. But I developed a love for stained - glass windows and church-music. First the Gregorian chant and then Mozart's Requiem, and Beethoven's Mass in D made lasting impressions on my mind. It is Bach however who formed my musical appreciation. He is rarely played in catholic churches, because he was a protestant. His music has the structure of a multi-coloured glass cathedral. By psychological association of ideas, I am greatly influenced by Rouault in my painting.

I underwent an abortive art training. The teachers were incompetent. I was expelled from the School of Art. I was also banished from a secondary school. Shelley was expelled once. Van Gogh was expelled once. Ostrovsky was expelled once. Palme Dutt was expelled once. I was expelled twice! Recalcitrant boys like me had to be dismissed by principals and directors of educational institutions who instinctively feared we would topple their apple-carts.

My last exhibition was damned as communist propaganda by retrogressives. This one is going to be damned as sexual exhibitionism by moralists. That is after I have given the labels. I received several anonymous and pseudonymous letters calumniating me as a subversive and amoral unsocial element deserving ostracism. I plead innocent.

History has repeatedly pointed out to me that the overthrowing of one bad government has only resulted in its replacement by a worse one. This business is well handled by our politicians and our revolutionaries. And regarding morals, I am sure moralists have none to spare either. I am a harmless painter recording imaginatively what strikes my retina, or transcribing what has passed into the sub - conscious.

Modern painting is a very complex subject. It is an eclectic agglomeration of more oriental and less occidental graphic and glyphic arts, from the paleolithic times to the present day. To comprehend and appreciate it one must know one's way in the world history of art, from Praxiteles to Picasso, from the Han to the Manchu dynasty, and from Mohenjo-Daro to Francis Newton.

Of course this advice is only for those sincerely interested in art. Not for journalists not for art critics. They know too much. To show off their pedantry, they call a portrait painter a limner. To brag of their knowledge of the Silpa Sastras they caption a photograph of Pandit Nehru admiring a South Indian Bronze of Siva Nataraja, as 'Jawaharlal Nehru examining a metal decoration'*. To boast of their acquaintance with me and the British Royal Academy, they write 'Francis Newton was a portrait painter of great skill and high repute and a Royal academician whose efforts to establish a national academy of Art resulted in the Royal Academy in 1768'*. This anachronism makes me a Methuselah and an impostor. It is difficult to understand how I am confounded with a dauber like Sir Joshua Reynolds the actual founder of the Academy. Besides there is no Francis Newton associated with the history of British painting before or after 1768.

There are others who are foremost in blabbering about our ancient cultural heritage. Ajanta! Ajanta! Ajanta! They attack modern art with chauvinism and imbecility. Modern Indian Art could grow faster than it does if it received national pecuniary support and constructive criticism, which up till now comes exclusively from foreigners.

Notes

* Quotations from local newspapers

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