Posted by: Rajesh Shukla | March 27, 2012

Krishna Khanna: A discourse on Love and betrayal

In my previous article “Krishna Khanna and Modernity’s consciousness” I tried to figure out few themes and their gravity to expand it further and to take you inside of the interiority of his works. What I wrote in my previous post has nothing to do with politics as such however eternal truth is that everything that is social is political. Anatomy of being is formed in the social and political.  Another point is that man can’t be otherwise, man is a social being sustained with a law whether it is divine law for the human that Hindus called Rit or the human law that came into existence in Hobbes with social contract. In absence of law whatever it is divine or human, life would be an utter chaos. Even the son of God would encounter his being or discovers himself only when he already situates himself in a law and order in relation the Other-the oppressed. Artist’s case is not different from this point of view if we consider artist as a person possessed with the divine fire of creativity. Artist is like Vedic seer Kavi-kratu or kavi–krita i.e. he who sees That that no one sees–a poet who is critical as well as a politician of the humanity. Kavi-kratuor krita is a divine dice thrower, who throws after having counted the petals of the world of Leela—leela-kamal patraniलीलाकमलपत्राणि. Kratu is the word used for the dice and to throw a dice is critical and a divine act. To be more precise, divine act of dice throw is not like Spivak’s little secret embrace from Above  rather it is thrown out of an eternal love for the suffering humanity—ETERNAL LOVE FOR AN ENCHANTING FACE, SAYS MUKTIBODH.   In the emancipation of the suffering humanity he finds self satisfaction. Foucault has remarkably conceived thinking as a dice throw which was later taken forward by Deleuze in a new way to develop his theology of eternal return. Idea of another Eternal return is that of a neuter; having thrown a unique throw of dice it returns without returning. When God throws dice he wins for he knows the principle underlying intermezzo of two valid throws and returns his eternal divine law which is not a law—he proclaims the end of history in which men is a liberated man- as in communism.

Mahabharata begins with a dice throw in which the priests threw a unique throw to establish the priestly law of the despot. In his painting “The game” dice is being thrown, web of dark conspiracy is being weaved against humanity. “The game” invites various readings.  To be precise, the game is an event that is going to decide the new strategy of the despot producing new effect on the social. Effects fall upon us like battle and in each wound brought upon our flesh we cry the cry.  You are either flesh or sword in the eternal game of power; haunting is historical. Haunting shouldn’t be read as evil for gods and creative beings too haunt, hunt like the hunter; Hegel’s owl of Minerva flies at dusk to hunt the evil.  Khanna’s “the GAME”, the dice throw, and the despot’s conspiracy, battle, revolution, life and death all form a series of events. One little mistake and kingdom of hell is at hand-Auschwitz is not very distant. That is why Krishna Khanna’s paintings are an urgent call on suffering humanity. Like a despot, a poet-artist too throws a counter throw of his dice of creativity to return the law that could emancipate humanity for it is the condition of his own emancipation. Krishna Khanna’s love begins from this very ontology and here we can diagnose his illness why he despite a lover of Sufism didn’t become passive spiritualist. Khanna has painted Sufi saints and mad Arabian poets of wine and book but he is not much concerned with their way of life. He knew perhaps that Sufi mysticism has never been a solution to men’s liberation; for a poetical ecstasy in dim lit colorful candle light it is fine but it can’t be a path to emancipation. In fact mysticism subtracts everything from poverty, reducing it to misery. By defining human substance, and desire in relation to the divinity in spiritual terms, priests had had always one intention-to neutralize it. Role of spiritualism or anything that produces such effect on human soul in bourgeoisie is absolutely about this criminality none other. Krishna Khanna knows that to situate oneself in the social means simply to individuate through love, it is only divine force and the power that can develop the commonality, as sense of communion and power is produced for universal emancipation.

The Great Betrayal

Krishna Khanna “The great Betrayal” can be situated in the middle of his oeuvre for around it some profound revolves. Betrayal is a double betrayal-the bastard betrays the God the Despot and the voice of the God –the priest, leader at the same time. Or from another point of view it is double turning- man turns his face from God, who also turns his face away from man-absolute deterritorialization. Betryal is a secular turn –one has to turn his face towards old conception of life and death to discover new meaning of life. Krishna khanna’s the great betrayal is entirely spiritual and secular image perhaps God is affirmed in a new way if you like you can say it. Painting goes straight to the heart of the matter, that is, of the HEART. It does not make it an object of belief in religious sense rather it arouses a new faith; it implants humanism within it, so to speak. ‘This faith is what forms a new possibility of communitarian politics, makes a new world possible beyond religious communalism; this is what humanitarian-political of arts is.
Krishna Khanna’s affirmative voice is “If light dictates our life let This light dictates us” he has chosen it deliberately and if we talk religion it is fair to say in Upanishadic words that “क्रमते न हि बुद्धस्य ज्ञानं धर्मेषु तायिनः..Such faith and knowledge never gets corrupted, never gets deceased”. It is only this faith that can’t be doubted and remarkably Khanna painted it in his painting “doubting Thomas” “Thomas touches his doubt”, it not only tells us his deep understanding of religion but also his artistic messianism if I can use this heavy term for him. Well, it is not copy righted by westerns we too are able to produce such people. “Doubting Thomas” “Thomas touches his doubt” if coupled with “the great betrayal” it may lead us to a heavy discourse of political-theology. In his biography it is mentioned that Christians didn’t like his Christ theme because they didn’t expect any distortion of their god so one critic Anthony Lousada says “The difficulty is that if you take a traditional subject, it is difficult to forget the early masters who depicted it”. Gayatri however reacted on him that he was prejudiced about his Lord Jesus and rightly remarks that “Krishna’s Christ series is not religious painting but social critique located within the political context of India of in70’s”.  She could have written much in such heavy project of book writing but she passes by lightly without entering into his oeuvre. How can you spend three years for two hundred pages and yet you find yourself unable to bring some deeper truths and light on his art! Respected critics like Gita Kappor too are is blind to the blindness and too much narrow minded political concerning modernity’s consciousness. Krishna Khanna in his Christian themes is thoroughly profound seeking Man by crying out after God. The history of being begins – necessarily begins in this search of historicity.  Man is to be discovered. I am in no mood here to proceed in that zone political-theology for blog is not a right place. Once it is remarked we can do it later.

Such humanitarian affirmative culture in art is absolutely needed; for only an affirmative discourse on life can bring us peace, happiness and progress. Hitherto whatever religious discourses on life and death exists are through and through nihilist-all are enemy of desire and passion. Generally it is believed that religion is anti-rational, anti-intellectual but fact is that religion is another form of rationality operates through irrationality.  We as artists must turn from this form of rationality and invent an ‘other’ or ‘essential’ night or day whatsoever depends on one’s economy and temperament of the soul. We can pursue multiple lines of flights, varied discourses of madness of truth or madness into truth. If western philosophy, art and literature took a new turn after Kant, Hegel, Marx , Freud  and Nietzsche it is because all proclaimed the death of the God of the Judaeo–Christian tradition together with the death of all those ideals, norms, principles, rules, ends and values that were despot’s  order above human beings. Since then, when we trace western cultural history we find that it remains atheism or in a new post structuralism term “onto-theological”; it allowed “the arrogance of thinking” for in it one manifests his passion, his true self.  Priests and managers are sitting everywhere today in culture organizations and when question of culture and creativity comes, when someone takes a flight they start talking about the tolerance which in fact is a repressive tolerance. Priests are everywhere for priests are parasites they live on, they survived in every age but we have to recognize them as parasite and must not allow them to lead our life and art.  An ancient Indian poet reminds us to tread the path of freedom:
पूर्वे विश्रृंखलगिरः कवयः प्राप्तकीर्तयः। तान्समाश्रित्य न त्याज्या नीतिरेषा मनीषिणाः।। “In past poets of free speech have attained kirti therefore writers and poets shouldn’t abandon this moral strategy.”
Whenever man begins his flight in freedom and life priest comes united, whenever man aspired to touch the eternity they came saying “what is this shit- creativity?” ..We do know from history that how many great Indian Advaita philosophers, great poets and logicians suffered from their propaganda and conspiracies. New lines of flight, new thoughts were never allowed to prevail under Hindu priestly repression. Any new “say” and there is a great social threat, priests in all color and form would come united against this threat –threat against our great dying soul.  In Art priests never allowed criticism as soon as you criticize you are fucked, fucked so much so that you will have no place anywhere, why? Because spirit of “it it out” is threatened.
Husain was idolized and converted into a biggest priest of Indian art; under his repression many great artists did not find any space.  Art market revolved on his face of creativity and brevity about which I have written few lines in my previous post. Who cares when only his idols could fetch sufficient money! Art market won’t have been suffered if this spectacle would not have existed, art market won’t have been suffered if there would have been criticism, art wouldn’t have been suffered when there would have been a valid art discourse, and it won’t have been suffered if parasite were ignored. Parasites are unproductive and because of that they are organized everywhere, they are bunch of grouses to borrow Terry Eagleton’s word and more so more, many of them are whisperers. They would sit in gallery owner’s office and keep on whispering making them almost absent minded and blind to the reality. Parasites would whisper and take away a grant for a book and produce garbage.  Even there are many others whisperers in this class like the sage Bhardwajas who are regular visitors of this or that gallery and with the falling of dusk they would surrender to any gallery owner or artist chosen for murder demanding a bottle and food-De, de profindis? ! Writers will finish books in ten to twenty pages and nothing would be embraced, often artist and art would be fucked in false speculative writing! What is more to explain about whisperers!. Well, I agree with Aijaz Ahmeh’s remark on Indian writing here. I have no intention to turn anyone on personal level, I humbly request you to read it rationally not as an abuse. I am not a scholar and writer but I read and I know a bit what is art writing and criticism. I write like journalists in my own traversalistic style firmly established within theory and yet outside it so in my articles you won’t find aura of polemic.  When you choose traversalistic style you would be behaving like sorcerers motivated with the pleasures and the excitement beyond fogs and miasmas which obscure our vision.  Outside myrthic environment subjectivity breaths a new breath and reconfigures itself and this is our cultural requirement; you may not agree but this is what I have concluded till today. I have a new yoga now that I would love to call phal-yoga फलयोग, criticism can be deconstructive; it is eschatological but it brings fruit. We should proceed in this phal-yoga फलयोग adventure and I hope nothing will fall apart rather art will have a new speed and life.  Art may copyright this yoga even, I have no problem. Let me close the article once again with the great Mukti-Bodh :
….Under the poisonous clouds
of smoke always
a hundred revelations
in a luminous moment
false dreams disintegrate
rays of awareness run in the blood
the world soul has found its image
A fire here!
a fire there…


You can read it here on scribed too



  1. u r correct

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