Large fields of flat solid colour envelope the spectator when seen at close quarters. It draws the eye beyond the edge of the canvas and into a personal journey. Form and background are one and the paintings are a field of colour rather than a picture window. These large-scale canvases resonate with emotive colour steeped in the memories of Pandit Khairnar’s rural home landscape of Nasik, bringing together land, horizon and sky into a time warp continuum.
Rejecting representational art and figuration as well as the gestural idiom, Khairnar presents his abstraction as an end in itself. He has sought to eliminate all subjective traces from his work, including any trace of brushstrokes, opting for large blurs of rich colour from the Indian landscape. He describes his response to the quality of light as references to his early impressions from his childhood in a farming family. The open skies and feeling of space reaching beyond the horizon incapsulate a bubble of memory for him with a nostalgic longing for a return to a simpler time when man was a part of nature’s rhythmic cycle. This impact left an indelible mark on his creativity as even as a young art student at L.S Raheja School of Art in Mumbai, Khairnar carried the seed of his homeland which flowered into its idiom as he matured as an artist. He describes his efforts of removing the horizon from his paintings through multiple layers of oil paint as an obsession and a passion for capturing the fleeting subtle tones and shades of changing qualities of light between sunrise and twilight. Rather than using the surface as a background on which to paint a subject, he has caused the surface itself became the subject. Without form and image, the background and foreground become one. Khairnar uses layers of oil paint atop each other to create these luminous, futuristic and atmospheric color fields.
His latest works have a subtle texture creating infinitesimal movement that shimmers as the eye travels over the surface. Faint reflections of the other worldly planets hint at the connection to the cosmic universe. These iconic paintings consist of blurred horizontal color fields, which engage with each other in an amorphous way, blending and bleeding at and into their edges. His paintings often feature warm hues and tones reminiscent of inner harmonies. His colored spaces seem to be in a state of morphing or evolution and have an organic quality. These shift, interact and re-form into the possibility of yet another amorphous future form.
Khairnar’s smaller and more intimate water colour works also have this blurred quality but curiously retain a minimalist resonance with the central darker square with defined edges. The dense blackness of the square growing out of the many washes of sombre ochres and earthy tones with hints of green and warmer hues have a similar vibration to the immense oil paintings of color field. Disparate forces come together in them, suggesting that time for introspection is limited as everything is in flux. There is both a sense of stability and a sense of change. Khairnar likens the singing of Megh Malhar with its inherent power and vibrations that transforms the ether into rain. “It is through the expression of the abstract that the real becomes visible.” By creating works that have no subject other than color itself, he has altered the way a painting could be perceived and takes us into a mythical and spiritual realm. His paintings are talismans, guiding us down pathways to a more introspective state of mind.
His works are like flashes of cosmic light or infinity. Khairnar reaches out for absolute beauty, the sublime, rather than relative beauty. He says, “Art for me is an emotional response of my senses. The visible changes of nature are only an outer manifestation and form a harmonious human expression.”
The paintings have a universal context of their own and allow the viewer to connect with something personal or mythic. Viewing Khairnar’s works takes you to a realm where the viewer’s own introspection could contribute to, or create the drama that emerges. His paintings pull one into the work, inviting us to contemplate much more than just the paint, the color, and the surface. You are invited to contemplate yourself and transcend the limitations of imagery.
By Kristine Michael
For Pandit Khairnar, the ‘anxious object’, is the earth and sky. In his hands, the abstract painting becomes an object of gestalt recognition. According to German
psychologist, Rudolf Arnheim, visual perception precedes thinking and steps into a form of cognition that is beyond the visual. The physicality of Khairnar’s work is different, since he is known to destabilize one hue with the existence of the other.
Eschewing figuration or decorativeness, his colour-field painting strives to capture essence or the ‘isness’. Khairnar attempts to represent the intangible, sifting the infinite from the finite moving beyond the pigmented interplays of conventional abstract expressionism and delves into the world of atmospheric depth.
He describes his memories spent in idyllic fields and attempts to recapture that point between twilight and dusk when the light changes in a few seconds and the open sky is a hue of myriad colours, intangible and mystic.
Born in 1968, Pandit Khairnar did his Diploma in Fine Art from L.S. Raheja School of Art, Mumbai in 1992. He is seen as one of the one of the foremost colour field painters in India. His paintings, existential in tone and content, are composed with the intention of communicating a sense of intangible ‘isness’.
Pandit Khairnar has had solo exhibitions at Threshold Art Gallery, in New Delhi in 2018, Volte Gallery, Mumbai in 2012; Jehangir art gallery, Mumbai in 2011; ‘The Sheltering Sky’ Gallery– 7, Mumbai in 2005; Jehangir art gallery, Mumbai organized by Bombay Art gallery in 2006 and 2001; Sans Tache Art Gallery, Mumbai in 1998; ‘First Solo Show’ at Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai in 1996. He was represented by Volte at India Art Fair 2016. He was represented by Gallery Threshold at the India Art Fair, in 2019 and 2020. His shows include- Amar Gallery, London with Parul Thacker, 2017. Two-person show with Rajendra Dhawan, at Gallery -7, Mumbai in 2002 and in 2008 ‘Reduced to Essentials-II’, two-person show with sculptor Madan Lal at Bombay Art Gallery, Mumbai. He has been awarded by the Bombay Art Society, Mumbai in 2004 and 1992; state of Maharashtra Merit Award and L.S. RAHEJA School of Art Award in 1992.
The artist lives and works in Nasik, India.