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Bhupen Khakhar  
Bhupen KHAKHAR India b.1934
Portraits of my mother and my father going to Yatra 1971
Oil on canvas 106.5 x 107cm
Purchased 1998.
Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant
Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Reproduced by permission of the artist

About the work
Bhupen  Father Parmanand Kalidas Khakhar, the artist's father, 1937
Photo courtesy Bhupen Khakhar and Gallery Chemould
Published in Timothy Hyman, Bhupen Khakhar, Chemould Publications and Arts, Bombay, & Mapin Publishing, Ahmedabad, India, 1998, p.117.

This painting is a rare representation of Khakhar's parents. In the background is the 'Residency Bungalow' in Baroda, which was Khakhar's home during the 1970s after he had left Bombay. The word 'yatra' means pilgrimage, which is an important journey to visit specific religious sites. Khakhar paints his parents, garlanded for the auspicious event, about to embark on their first pilgrimage before his birth. Yet curiously, it is Khakhar who sits on the pink verandah of his home witnessing this journey.

Khakhar paints his parents as they might have appeared in 1971, rather than in the 1930s when this first pilgrimage took place. His father, having died when Khakhar was four years old, is painted from memory, while his mother's image was made from a contemporary photograph. This is another anachronism - one would imagine that Khakhar would use a photograph of his father and paint his mother from memory. Adding to this sense of time disrupted, Khakhar depicts his mother attired in a simple white sari and without the red kumkum marking on her forehead which, in India, declares her widowhood.

Mahalakshmi Khakhar, the artist's mother, 1978
Photo courtesy Bhupen Khakhar and Gallery Chemould
Published in Hyman, Bhupen Khakhar, p.117.
Bhupen Mother

In Portraits of my mother and my father going to Yatra, the manner in which Khakhar paints the other buildings in the landscape is in the style of pilgrim charts. These are available from such sites as Mathura and Varanasi, and lay out precisely the nearby sacred sites that should be incorporated into the pilgrimage. Using the Residency Bungalow as both central and starting points, the 'pilgrimage chart' alludes to another personal journey, Khakhar's own artistic pilgrimage.

About the artist
Bhupen Portrait Residency Mandarin, Bhupen Khakhar at Baroda, 1969-70
Courtesy Bhupen Khakhar and Gallery Chemould
Published in Hyman, Bhupen Khakhar, p.118.

Bhupen Khakhar was born in Bombay in 1934 into a middle class Gujarati family. His father died when Khakhar was four years old, and his mother, Mahalaxmi, brought up the children. In keeping with the expectations of the successful mercantile classes, Khakhar initially trained as an accountant, graduating with degrees in commerce and administration. He began painting in the early 1960s. He moved to the University town of Baroda, north of Bombay, where he completed a degree in Art Criticism at the Fine Art Faculty at the M.S. University. Khakhar thus comes to painting relatively late. His early works draw on his interest in the imagery of Indian popular culture - cinema posters, calendar art and street kitsch. This interest is now less apparent in the work of Khakar, who has become an established artist and one of India's foremost contemporary painters.

Other lines to follow for Bhupen Khakhar
Bhupen Bhupen KHAKHAR
Residency Bungalow 1969
Oil on canvas
91 x 91cm
Collection unknown
Photo courtesy Bhupen Khakhar and Gallery Chemould

The Residency Bungalow pictured in Portraits of my mother and my father going to Yatra was Khakhar's first significant home away from Bombay. It is an important building, as it is symbolic of the new 'artistic', 'home' and 'family' that Khakhar adopted from 1962, in Baroda. That Khakhar paints his parents in front of the Residency Bungalow reveals a duality in the way Khakhar might consider his family. Acknowledging two important and parallel strands of his life, Portraits of my mother and my father going to Yatra is a beautiful exercise in disclosing how a portrait can operate on many levels. Another work by Khakhar, Residency Bungalow painted in 1969, alludes to his artistic family, featuring long-time friend and colleague Gulammohammed Sheikh. Gulammohammed Sheikh was influential in persuading Khakhar to become a painter and to move to Baroda. He lived at the Residency Bungalow for a period with Khakhar and a number of other art-world luminaries such as K.G. Subramanyan.

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