Representations of Street-Life in the Art and Literature of Bhupen Khakhar
This paper seeks to examine the works of the artist Bhupen Khakhar (1934-2003), a leading figure in Indian contemporary art. I will look at six paintings, one play and one short story to provide an overview of the way in which Khakhar deploys street-life, the ordinary and the mundane to attempt a demystification of the artistic process. Khakhar picks up snippets of everyday life, mainly from erstwhile Bombay where he grew up, and renders them as worthy subjects of art. He redefines the meaning of 'pop art' and brings the so-called 'insignificant' into artistic focus. In other words, art is removed from its intellectualised, elitist domain into one that is accessible and relatable. Through this process, he questions rigid definitions of art as well as literature and introduces multiple persepctives into the accepted, established canon. According to him, art needs to move away from the abstract and aim to represent the common milieu or the actual inhabited locale. Similarly, in his short story Maganbhai's Glue and his play Maujila Manilal, he deliberately places into focus the 'common man' as hero/protagonist and thereby carries on the demystification process that began with his paintings.
This paper will thus analyse Khakhar's literary and artistic works in the light of his subversion of traditional canons and the exploration of modern Indian identity through a new, innovative artistic method.
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