Balraj Khanna: A Retrospective at Gallery Elena Shchukina

Gallery Elena Shchukina is currently home to Balraj Khanna’s astonishingly charming, and bewitching series of works titled, ‘A Retrospective’.

Balraj Khanna was born in Punjab, India and moved to Britain in the sixties. Khan’s work is widely celebrated for its beauty and unique style; nobody else paints quite like Khanna, with his delicate, slow-moving force of the brush and his complex layers that make his work distinct. Khanna’s work is so complex and full of otherworldly essences, it is as though he has created a world that is entirely his own through his paintings. Although Khanna’s stunning colour palette in many of his paintings, such as earthy reds, greenish blues and strong greens seem to embody certain Indian properties, Khanna’s painted world of acrylic and sand conjures a faraway abstract dreamlike universe, which is extraordinary in so many ways.

Retrospective comes from the Latin retrospectare, meaning, “look back”. It generally refers to looking back at events that took pace, or works that were produced in the past. Retrospective can also mean a ‘compilation album’ when referring to a collection of artist’s past material, usually their best works. Balraj Khanna explores both of these meanings of the word Retrospective in this exhibition.

Viewers will note reoccurring themes of childhood in Khanna’s paintings, with floating images of kites, animals, and other not quite recognisable shapes that drift across canvas spaces of colour and limitless possibilities - much like a child’s future. Khanna creates his masterpieces by using acrylic paint and sand on canvas. The use of sand can be seen as a connection to childhood and also as a loving nod of appreciation to his birthplace of India, where Khanna would have spent most of his childhood.

Each and every single one of Khanna’s paintings will leave viewers breathless as their gaze swims through the pool of colours that surround them on every wall of the gallery. Downstairs, viewers are invited to join Khanna in his fantastical and bizarre universe as they lay their eyes upon an entire wall that has been bejewelled with rich and vibrant canvases.

Most of the images in Khanna’s paintings aren’t obvious at first, leaving viewers wondering if they really saw ‘something’; a fish, a plane, candy, a balloon perhaps? Full of simple delights, one does not have to know much about art to be able to appreciate the gleeful and colourful world that Balraj Khanna’s works of art have to offer.

Khanna’s paintings radiate energy and light, with some paintings appearing to contain imagery of astrological themes, while others appear to contain cellular forms that dance across the canvases and around the gallery walls. Delicate figures can be seen in the sandy dust trails, wiggling their fingers at viewers, beckoning them to join them on a wonderful journey to the bright and colourful world of their inner child.

'Balraj Khanna: A Retrospective' is on at Gallery Elena Shchukina until 26th January 2018.  More information may be found here.