artists in New Delhi
Artist Anwar Khan at workAnwar Khan

The Abstract World Of Artist Anwar Khan

Anwar Khan's abstract work focuses on creating powerful yet subtle statements on canvas, paper collage, or mixed media, inspired by personal explorations that transcend traditional representation

 A self-taught maestro, Anwar Khan's journey in art began not in the bustling metropolises but in the quieter town of Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. There, driven by an unyielding passion for painting, he pursued a National Diploma in Fine Arts in 1985. Over the years, Khan has carved a niche on the international stage. His artistic voyage has seen him showcase solo exhibitions almost annually from 1986 to 2003.

Travelling to different parts of the country helped him find inspiration in different ways— from the life of shepherds to the solitude of cities.

Settling in Bhopal, the heart of artistic activity in central India, Khan was influenced by the late J. Swaminathan, an eminent artist and mentor who introduced him to the spiritual philosophy of Sufism. This guidance transformed his early abstract works, marked by more nuanced expressions of light and love. Today, his art is characterised by manipulating colour and texture, creating powerful yet subtle statements on canvas, paper collage, or mixed media. He describes his work as "occurrences of intuition," deeply personal explorations that transcend traditional representation.

In an interview with Outlook Traveller, he talks about his latest exhibition Gestural Intuition, which offers a glimpse into the private world of his studio and the intuitive brilliance that defines his work.

Q

Your recent work emphasises peace through colour, geometric forms, and textures. How do you approach the creation of these elements to evoke such a serene atmosphere?

A

Geometric form textures combined with colours are the essence of my work. With time, daily practice and dedication of an entire lifetime, one has come to evoke these elements to convey the serenity that I intend to and evoke the emotions that are part of my artistic expression.

The recent exhibition Gestural Intuition brings together my engagement with these elements. Held at Bikaner House in March, it is hosted by Gallery Art Positive, representing my work, and was curated by Georgina Maddox. It evokes this sense of peace by delineating colour geometrical forms and textures.

Q

How has your travel experiences influenced your artistic vision and the themes you explore in your work?

A

My journey as a painter has been shaped by my roots in MP's Ambha and Bhopal, as well as my experiences in Delhi and travels to Leh and Ladakh. My canvas captures the simple lives of ordinary people, shepherds, and monks. Their harmony with nature and prayers for peace and unity has inspired me to create a series of works dedicated to them.

Q

You believe seeking a narrative in abstract art can detract from its appreciation. How do you hope viewers engage with your work without looking for a specific story?

A

The process of moving towards an abstract expression is to find freedom and enjoyment without needing a specific story. Of course, one cannot control how an audience reacts to one's work, and all art is open to the free association of the viewer's perceptive background. However, abstract art can be paralleled with classical music, both Western and Indian, where one enjoys the purity of the music rather than following the narrative or story that one is presented with in popular music with words and a simple structure.

A glimpse of Khan's work
A glimpse of Khan's worktaoartgallery.com/website
Q

Can you elaborate on your daily engagement with colour on various mediums and describe what you mean by 'an occurrence of intuition' in your creative process?

A

I would say that over the years, my daily art practice has been quite disciplined— I go to the studio early in the morning and return home in the evening. Most of my day is dedicated to my art practice, which only differs when I am on vacation with my family. While I am at the studio I listen to classical music, I make my tea and I begin my work, and it is within this sanctity of routine that I have an occurrence of intuition. This is to say that I try to move deeper into my intuitive inner self rather than drawing upon what I already know. Intuition leads to that moment where one 'discovers' something new, an experience beyond the mundane routine that we no doubt take refuge in to find that remarkable occurrence. 

Q

Your work features powerful lines, geometric forms, and rich colours. How do you balance spontaneity with deliberate design in your gestural expressions?

A

This balance is once again an intuitive process. As a young artist, the struggled to maintain that balance is greater. Still, as a senior artist, one reaches that position in life where one can draw with ease and alacrity upon these elements of balance—it is often harder to step away from work and know when it is done when one is still struggling to find one's expression, but once that is found it becomes as more accessible—often it is as spontaneous as breathing.

Q

How has J. Swaminathan's ideology influenced your art. In what ways do you continue to see his impact on your work today?

A

With great respect, I evoke J Swaminathan's influence upon me and my work. I was a young, raw artist, and his support and guidance led me to discover my artistic voice and expression. Swaminathan played a role in establishing the Bharat Bhawan, a multi-art complex in Bhopal, in 1982, and he stayed on in Bhopal as the director of its Roopankar Art Museum (till 1990). He was also known to incorporate indigenous practices to change the frameworks through which Modernist Indian art was developed, and this aspect of his early engagement with Bhil art inspired me. Further, he believed in the numen, or spiritual heart, of artwork, and it is this aspect of his belief that I hold on to most because it guides my practice to date.

A glimpse of Khan's work
A glimpse of Khan's worktaoartgallery.com/website
Q

What draws you to create works in a monochromatic palette, and how do you use shades of grey to evoke a sense of intellect and elegance?

A

As an artist, one moves toward a palette depending on one's frame of mind, emotional state and perhaps even a problem that one is mulling over. I intend to use colour without falling into the set regimes that one often finds associated with the colour— for instance; most people believe that blue is a calm and sedate colour. However, I find that blue can be used like red, with the same boldness and giving that same amount of stimulation that red is associated with. I think my works have rhythm, and I know what colours will speak to each other calmly, elegantly, intuitively, and spiritually.

Q

How does the lyricism of Indian classical vocalist Kishori Amonkar influence your suite of paintings, and how do you translate musical elements into visual art?

A

I have always enjoyed Kishori Amonkar as a vocalist; losing her was a sad experience. I have dedicated a series of my work to her evoking the Raag Malhar (often associated with torrential rains), and I have painted a series that captures the transition from a dry landscape to the one that is green and soaked in the blue of the rains. 

Q

Growing up in Ambha, Madhya Pradesh, what elements from your early environment and experiences do you see reflected in your current art?

A

The colours are certainly defined by my experience of living in MP. The Chambal Ghat and the River Chambal flow very near to Ambah and form the border to UP. I have drawn much of my earlier inspiration from the river and think it still prevails in my work. The local temples, like the Mitawali and the Batesar, have also left an impression on my mind, and I enjoyed their geometric forms that reoccur in my work on an almost subconscious level.

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