“Each paint­ing has a his­tory and a des­tiny”

As Kr­ishen Khanna’s Pi­eta reaches Sotheby’s Mod­ern and Con­tem­po­rary South Asian Art Auc­tion, the painter tells Karuna John he hopes it goes to some­one who ap­pre­ci­ates it

India Today - - SIMPLY DELHI -

Agrieving mother mourns her dead son, she holds him ten­derly and points a fin­ger to his body. “Why did they do this to him”, her pursed lips seem to ask. Pi­eta, a 1978 oil- on-can­vas work by Kr­ishen Khanna, 88, one of In­dia’s cel­e­brated painters, will be a part of the Sotheby’s Mod­ern and Con­tem­po­rary South Asian Art Auc­tion to be held in Lon­don on June 11. Pi­eta, has been of­fered for the first time at the auc­tion, for an es­ti­mate price of £ 100,000- 150,000. The fig­u­ra­tive work of Mary hold­ing Je­sus’ body is painted in tones of blue, pur­ple, pink and earth hues. The scene, as it was, can be vi­su­alised across globe where war and strife still fuel such tragic mo­ments.

“The griev­ing mother has ev­ery right to ques­tion the death of her son,” says Khanna, who con­tin­ues to paint daily at the base­ment stu­dio of his art- filled Gur­gaon home. “This is the sec­ond or third pi­eta that I have painted. Each one is dif­fer­ent,” says Khanna, adding, “each paint­ing has a his­tory be­hind it and a des­tiny.”

This Pi­eta was painted in the US on re­quest. Un­for­tu­nately, once com­pleted the paint­ing got less than a tepid re­sponse from the cou­ple who had re­quested him to cre­ate it. “I don’t like that kind of re­ponse, es­pe­cially to a pic­ture that is mean­ing­ful. The man said that ‘ she looks very sad and ag­gres­sive’. I said yes she is an ag­grieved mother and has ev­ery rea­son to be that,” Khanna re­calls the con­ver­sa­tion as if it played out just yes­ter­day

Once back home in In­dia, Khanna wrote to the cou­ple and of­fered to ac­cept the Pi­eta back if they did not want it. They did re­turn it and Mum­bai- based busi­ness­man Dilip De even­tu­ally bought it. The des­tiny of the 1978 Pi­eta has now taken it to Sotheby’s but Khanna says he is not per­son­ally in­ter­ested in the fi­nal bid made for it. “I have never at­tended an auc­tion,” he con­fesses. Khanna just wants the Pi­eta to go to some­one who ap­pre­ci­ates the paint­ing for what it means. “I don’t want it to go to some­one who puts it in a strong box, say­ing it is worth so much money and will fetch more. It is not a shared script,” says Khanna. Ac­cord­ing to him, when a paint­ing goes into a house it de­vel­ops a re­la­tion­ship with the per­son who has ac­quired it. “Even when a paint­ing is away I still think it is mine. Some­one gave me money for it and took it away, but it is mine,” he muses, “I am un­happy if a paint­ing does not do well. If it is not liked, I would want it back, not dis­carded.” The Pi­eta, ir­re­spec­tive of the fi­nal auc­tion bid, con­tin­ues its des­tined jour­ney.

M ZHAZHO/ www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

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