Anwar Khan


"I wish to realize what the colors have to offer in a certain moment. I wait for the things to happen and pervade my picture space, which was empty before their arrival, and would remain empty if resonances of a happening have not left their marks on it."

He was born in 1964 in Ambha, a small Madhya Pradesh town. He didn’t really receive a formal education in fine arts at any reputed institution in a big city, but rather followed his own passion for painting to Gwalior, the closest place to his home that offered him a course in art, and obtained a National Diploma in fine arts from there in 1985.

This, of course, does not mean that Anwar’s work is any less important or praised than that of other abstractionists painting in India today. The artist has developed for himself an internationally acclaimed technique and idiom that sets him apart from most other Indian contemporary artists and has shown his works in solo exhibitions almost every year from 1986 to 2003. He now lives and works in Bhopal, where he settled immediately after his years at Gwalior, hearing that it was the hub of artistic activity in his state and the whole of central India.

From his early days as a student of art, Anwar has really traveled far to become the mature artist that he is today. Fighting against the trend towards figuration that was popular during his stint at Gwalior, Anwar was guided in Bhopal by the late eminent artist J. Swaminathan in developing a personal visual vocabulary and using it to communicate through his art. Swaminathan, as a teacher and mentor, introduced Anwar to the philosophy of Sufism and the principles of light and love that guide his work today. Before this his abstracts displayed insensitive angles and biting edges, now Anwar makes his statement just as powerfully but much more quietly, having learnt to manipulate colour and texture to his advantage. Swaminathan said of his work, "It is as if you are watching a waterfall, or a storm at sea with the sound track cut off. The visual palpitation leads you to lend an attentive ear to the silent music of creation."

The Bhopal gas tragedy was one event that helped bring this change in Anwar’s work. Deeply affected by what had happened, the artist had to display his mixed and confused feelings in his work. Bringing despair, passion and hope together on a canvas was no easy task, and it is to Anwar’s credit that he handled it so well, moving into the higher echelon of artists who were now comfortable in their work having experimented with various techniques and media and finally settling in their own niche or signature style.

Most of his Anwar’s recent works show a clear vertical division of the painted surface with an almost central line, often splitting the paper into two contrasting colors and pulling all the activity on the surface towards it. Anwar grinds his own pigments to make the pastel colors he builds his surface in layers with. Using dry pastels to mark these opaque layers in an almost calligraphic manner and sometimes weaving or pasting painted material or the surface, Anwar creates relief like lyrical pieces that communicate his thoughts and emotions fully.

Please click on images for more details.