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A drawing by dost June 8, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in English, Gay, Indian Express, Personality, Section 377.
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From The Indian Express:

A drawing by dost

Vandana Kalra

Posted online: Sunday, June 08, 2008 at 1513 hrs

I first saw the work in Bhupen (Khakhar)’s studio in Baroda. The work was later part of several exhibitions. Not many artists have depicted homosexuality the way Bhupen did. He was an extraordinary artist and his portrayal had simplicity. There was an attempt to showcase a certain truth and, at the same time, there was no deliberate effort that was made to demonstrate one’s skill.

In this particular work, he has successfully managed to blur the line between the public and the private. As the title suggests, it is an image of a couple celebrating its 30th anniversary, which clearly indicates that they have been together for 30 years. Homosexuality in India is still not legally accepted, but with remarkable sophistication Bhupen intertwined it with the convention of getting pictures clicked at moments of celebration.

Even in the 19th century, when a few segments did not allow women to go out in public, photographers were invited to shoot family pictures at home. So the painting has a homosexual couple at home. The medium of watercolour lends an informality and though the body is naked, it has not been depicted as an object of desire. Instead, it is a subject and Bhupen is painting the relationship. He has also clearly indicated the more feminine partner of the two, where the head is covered with a drape. One could also interpret the man to be Krishna since he is painted in blue. There are several layers. For instance, the simple frontal forms and the manner in which the outline has first been drawn and the shadow has been worked on are akin to the Kalighat paintings of Bengal.

This watercolour was also a part of the series titled Bad Drawings for Dost, which I made as a tribute to Bhupen after his death. In it, I traced several of his works on butter paper and sewed it with drawing sheets. It was called ‘bad drawings’ because the images were traced, but I worked on them by dislocating parts of the original painting. It added a certain complexity to the image.

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