20 October, 2020

Forlorn Faces, Close Up

A post-9/11 dread fills Bhupen Khakhar's poster-faces, says Yashodhara Dalmia

Forlorn Faces, Close Up
There is no face which is intact. From a distance they look like the scarred and fractured landscape of another planet. At close quarters the wounded, splintered images are of people. The Baroda-based painter Bhupen Khakhar, in his recent show at the Vadehra Art Gallery in New Delhi, conjures up scenes of everyday life with his characteristic irony. This time though the humour is dark, almost forbidding.

In one dramatic painting there are only two faces which emerge from the darkness—one shooting, the other shot at. As guts and arteries, in a gushing blood-red, ooze out from the body they could be cut-outs from a horror film. The twist lies in the fact that the faces are the same, both of the villain and the victim.

In two telling canvases titled Muslims Around the Mosque I (see picture) and II, we see them huddled in fear around mosques. They seem to be seeking refuge, whispering the day's events, exchanging information, perhaps the only place where they are free of fear. The forlorn face of one of them in a close-up is collaged onto the main canvas...


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