Wednesday, December 21, 2011

K.K.Hebbar's Retrospective at the National Gallery of Modern Art

This is the year of K.K.Hebbar's centenary. He was born in 1911. Rajani Prasanna and Rekha Rao, his daughters curated the exhibition. K.G.Subramanyan has written "The Pleasure of Knowing Hebbar" for the catalogue called "Hebbar An Artist's Quest". Veena K Thimmaiah, an art historian has provided the text for the catalogue.

The exhibition was on at the National Gallery of Modern for a month from November 22, 2011 to December 22, 2011.
Hebbar's paintings of the 1940s and the 1950s have a romantic touch to them, depicting scenes from rural life as well as portraits of family and friends, especially his mother. The painting showing mother and artist son is interesting. And so is the one showing the threshing floor at harvest time, with the bullocks, village men and women, and the stacks of fodder has so much action packed into it. Then there is the painting of the cart with a woman seated in it and the bullock's head turned away brings in a touch of realism. Hebbar visited Japan, Indonesia and Cambodia. His colourful depiction of the Angkor Vat temple is breathtaking. Then there is the painting of the flaming sun and his chariot drawn by horses is bold and original in conception.
In the 1980s, Hebbar takes to abstract painting, and he conveys the excitement of the undertaking with bright and vibrant colours.
The most impressive part of Hebbar's ouevre are his line drawings stretching across the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. In a few lines he is able to fill out a figure which is alive and almost jumping out of the paper on which it is drawn. The 51 drawings he has done for the ancient Tamil epic, Silappadikaram are pure magic.
The exhibition remains chronological and there is no fresh argument which underpins the retrospective. The curators cannot take the blame because there is no lively debate about contemporary Indian art, and it will be difficult to construct an argument about Hebbar in a vacuum. As a matter of fact, there is no debate about Indian art, past and present. We are living in intellectual dark ages.
Hebbar's unique achievement is that he has been able to bring to life some of the fascinating aspects of Indian domesticity -- especially of the village -- which has now vanished, almost. In his Bangladesh paintings one can see an artist's celebration of freedom born of oppression and violence.

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