Tate Modern will present (01.06.2016 - 06.11.2016) the first international retrospective of Indian artist Bhupen Khakhar since his death. Renowned for his vibrant palette, unique style and bold examination of class and sexuality, Khakhar played a central role in modern Indian art but was also a key international figure in 20th century painting. This exhibition will bring together the artist’s work from across five decades and collections around the world, including major works on canvas, luminous watercolour paintings and experimental ceramics.
>> Bhupen Khakhar * 1934 Mumbai † 2003 Baroda
Khakhar was part of a lively community of artists and writers in Baroda where his home became a gathering place to meet and exchange ideas, even for visiting artists such as Howard Hodgkin and Dexter Dalwood. Khakhar spent six months as artist-in-residence at the Bath Academy of Art which cemented his links with contemporary British artists. Following his time in Europe, he painted the seminal work You Can’t Please All 1981, depicting a life-size naked figure on a balcony watching characters from an ancient Aesop fable. This confessional painting signalled Khakhar’s ‘coming out’ as a gay man and suggests the personal difficulties he faced at the time.
Khakhar was influenced by Gandhi and was committed to relating the truth as a guiding principle. He confronted provocative themes, particularly his homosexuality, with honesty, sensitivity and wit throughout his career. Works like Yayati 1987 show mythical figures in frank and fantastical portrayals of same-sex love. The large-scale diptych Yagnya - Marriage 1999 depicts a traditional celebration and feast in a small town with two men receiving a blessing, while smaller watercolours such as Flower Vase 1999 and Grey Blanket 1998 are more intimate visions of same-sex desire.
Also a writer and playwright, Khakhar was dedicated to storytelling and the illustration of the world in detail. He worked with Salman Rushdie on a special edition of two stories for which the artist produced a series of wood-cuts. Towards the end of his life, Khakhar also made works that expressed his very personal battle with cancer. Works such as Bullet Shot in the Stomach 2001 and At the End of the Day the Iron Ingots Came Out 1999 show the realities of living with his illness in characteristically unflinching detail. The final work in the exhibition, the small gold hued painting Idiot 2003, expressively combines beauty, rage and irony as one character laughs at another’s grimace of pain. (Text: Tate Modern)