Born in 1943, Krishan Ahuja has studied and taught at College of Art Delhi. His works have been displayed in India and abroad several times in last five decades. His works were displayed at Desi Canvas under the theme “Impressions/Expressions”. We met again at AIFACS gallery and talked about many things from the use of material to some memories. Here is the summary of our conversation in form of an interview:
Ashish: What is the story behind you becoming an artist?
Krishan Ahuja: When I was in school in junior section, in 6th or 7th standard, my elder brother was studying science. His friends used to visit us. One of his friends visited us and made my brother’s portrait with charcoal. This person, Suraj Sadan used to visit us. He was a student of Biren Dey. He got the admission in the third year directly because of his work. This is how I got into it. Suraj Sadan is now based in Canada. I always used to have a chalk in my hand. I used to draw dog or a puppy. This is how it started and I was happy doing it. I took painting as a subject at school level as well. When I wanted to work and it was time for admission to college, my brother told me not to waste time. I got admission in Hindu and KM College but I never went there. I joined the College of art in 1961.
Ashish: What inspires you to put your energy into art?
Krishan Ahuja: I am into the drawing. it is my strength as well as weakness. I really enjoy making drawings. It is my inspiration and energy. I draw female figures. Colors help me a lot. Nudes are not just nudes for me, but they are nude. I wanted to explore my creativity. I thought I should have some more ideas and thoughts, and kept exploring. I was keeping myself up to date so that I can take part in art discourse. In 1969 I joined the college as a teacher. My colleague Jagmohan Chopra arranged one small unit for us. I was given a small plate to test myself in printmaking. He gave me the full plate and for that the entire credit goes to Mr. Jagmohan Chopra for my entry into printmaking. Rajesh Mehra inspired me for drawing.
Ashish: What materials do you use in your paintings?
Krishan Ahuja: I started my creative work with printmaking. I found that I am okay with textures also. I was taking forms from nature. From 1970-88, I was working on printmaking. We had a workshop at AIFACS. I used to come here every Sunday. I was very comfortable to work on paper-plates. The demo to it was given by Jagmohan Chopra. I really enjoyed working on it. I worked on zinc plates wherever I was invited but at my home it was mainly the paper plate. In 1988 my first show was about to happen at Taj Hotel in Mumbai with 12 paintings and 14 graphics. I was encouraged by Times of India reviewer Mr. Nadkarni. After that three more of my shows happened in Mumbai. I shifted to figurative. I had my show at Alliance Francaise and then had shows in Canada and America. I met Krishna Reddy in 1984. He gave me half an hour in New York. He still lives in Manhattan. That day he called up his office and informed them that he will not be able to teach that day as his friend has come to visit. He also suggested me to explore sculpture.
Ashish: How have you evolved as an artist? (your journey so far)
Krishan Ahuja: It is still on. I am still evolving.
Ashish: Who is/are your favorite artist(s)? And why?
Krishan Ahuja: Modigliani, Rembrandt, Paul Gauguin. I also like Tyeb Mehta, Satish Gujral, and Arpita Singh
Ashish: As an artist what do you think needs to be done in order to reach out to more people?
Krishan Ahuja: We have to bring awareness in the field of art. People are not aware of a work of art. I had a show of my photographs as well in Canada. One lady bought three of my photos, and she said that she will put them in her bathrooms. People are making editions in photographs although a sincere printmaker will destroy the plate after a specific number of works.
Ashish: What differences do you find in the audience of India and abroad?
Krishan Ahuja: Audiences are the same. People think in their own ways. Some people understand art differently, they are more detailed. Art is limited to a few classes. Galleries are the promoters in India. The naming and branding come from there. Freelancers have more time to explore, and the people with a regular job are not being taken that seriously. Survival is also important.
Ashish: How do you see the economics of art in India?
Krishan Ahuja: One should be fair, that’s what I would say. Prices should be reasonable. It should be a gradual process.