Born in 1925 in what is now Faislabad in Pakistan, Krishen Khanna grew up in Lahore, only studying art after he graduated from college at evening classes held at the Mayo School of Art there. In 1947, Khanna’s family moved to Shimla as a result of the Partition of India and Pakistan, and Khanna was deeply affected by not only the change in his personal life, but also the socio-political chaos that reigned around him. His early works are reproductions of the scenes that were indelibly imprinted in his memory during this period.
Most of Khanna’s work is figurative; he chose to not explore the abstraction that most of his contemporaries were delving into. In an interview with Saffronart he said “I used to do abstracts earlier and I have now moved on to human forms. I thought that the person or the individual is being neglected – the person in a particular situation who is influenced by the conditions around. I want to now emphasise the human beings caught up in their particular condition.”
Bordering on the narrative, Khanna’s work captures moments in history, much like photographs do, but the artist’s technique is far from photo-realist. Khanna transfers his observations onto the canvas with spontaneity and exuberance, keeping the representational elements of his subject matter intact. The artist’s use of colour and his expressionist brushwork make the mundane rise to the challenge of the creative.