Art Education
 

K.H.ARA
 
 

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K.H.Ara

The son of a car-driver, Krishnaji Howlaji Ara was born in 1913, in Bolarum (near Hyderabad), Andhra Pradesh. He moved to Mumbai at the age of seven and made his first living cleaning cars. In his youth, he joined the Salt Satyagraha during India's Independence movement and later worked as a car cleaner in a Japanese firm. His Japanese employer disappeared after Japan’s attack on the Pearl Harbour, but Ara continued to live and work in the small servant’s room of the firm’s office, which served as his studio for the rest of his life.

An entirely self-taught artist, Ara's work was rooted in the joy of creativity, focusing on nudes, still life and human figure studies. He was the first contemporary Indian painter to methodically use the female nude as a subject, staying within the limits of naturalism. His work was appreciated, encouraged and supported by the then art critic for the 'Times of India', Rudy von Leyden. Ara had his first solo show in 1942 in the Chetana Restaurant in Mumbai. In 1944, he was awarded the Governor's prize for painting.

He was a founder member of the Progressive Artists' Group and had several shows with the rest of this group. In 1952, he received the Bombay Art Society's Gold Medal for his work 'Two Jugs". He was a member of the managing committee of the Bombay Art Society and served on the selection and judging committees of the Lalit Kala Akademi. In his later years he spent much of his time in the Artists' Centre.

Ara began his journey of art with a fair degree of academism, with scenes from his surroundings and portraits reminiscent of Bombay's colonial painters, following which elements of the Bengal School began to show in his work. Some influences of Cezanne and Matisse were evident in his still lives of '40s and '50s, and though fluent with the formal ways of Modernism, Ara also successfully drew inspiration from the classics.

His favoured media initially were watercolours and gouaches, which would at times resemble oils in the impasto effect. Later he also worked successfully in oils, where occasionally as in “Woman with Flowers”, the relatively thin pigmentation would remind of his previous preference for the watercolour.
Himself a part of India’s freedom struggle as a Salt Satyagrahi, his exultation with India's independence resulted in an immensely long canvas depicting the Independence Day procession with a multitude of Indian people celebrating in exuberance.

With the true insight of a self-taught artist he said: "Expression for me does not reside in passions glowing on a human face... Composition is the art of arranging in a decorative manner the diverse elements at the painter's command to express his feelings" often mentioning an urgency for "the honest expression of form".
 

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