Remembering One of India’s Finest: Keshav Malik

Sneha Shah and Carina Kohli reflect on the works and achievements of the late Keshav Malik— a prolific poet, art critic, curator and arts scholar

Keshav Malik Source: Indian Express

Keshav Malik
Source: Indian Express

Sitting on the banks of the serene Yamuna in the 1960s-1970s, Keshav Malik began his journey as a poet and art critic. A verse from The Singular, a poem from his collection Rippled Shadow, holds a mirror to the man unlike any biography or obituary does:

“He will not talk as plural; he, a bare mouth-piece

To the singing of seas, shall indeed singular be.

He cannot claim more, his comments his own, are not

The general lie or moan.”

In Malik’s context, the term “art critic” shouldn’t be taken in its conventional implication. He would interpret the world around him—including art—with a rare sensitivity and poetic lyricism. An art critic for the Hindustan Times (1960-1972) and The Times of India (1975-2000); editor of Thought, Indian Literature; co-editor of Art and Poetry, and the author of several publications, his contributions earned him immense recognition and respect. For his achievements, he was awarded the Padma Shri in 1991 by the government of India for his contribution to literature.

It would be unfair to remember Malik for his achievements alone; his words were laden with meaning and a deep reflection on the world around him. It is evident that his poetic inclinations impacted his art writing. “Poetry is the foremost sense-maker of experience”, he once said. He saw poetry as a filter to cleanse one’s being and recover one’s lost self-continuity. “Art, and the purer of the sciences, invest the world of every day with new meanings, fresh symbols, whereby to express the refreshed vision or a timeless quest,” the critic wrote, quite lyrically, exploring the significance of art in society in his book Dus Mahavidyas: Ten Creative Forces.

Artists adored Keshav Malik, kind with his words, and humane and sensitive in his approach to criticism. He wouldn’t pass judgment on any work of art, writing based purely on his aesthetic sensibility, and would sometimes respond through poetry.

“His art criticism did not come from art history; it came from his deep understanding of aesthetics as a poet. He responded to the works of art according to this aesthetical understanding. He never hurt anybody by making a harsh judgment. In fact there was no need for him to be harsh on any artist. He belonged to a world of dreamers; beauty, harmony and poetry were the rules of that world,” artist K.S. Radhakrishnan reminisced in a conversation with a blogger.

This legendary icon of the Indian art world passed away on June 11, 2014 in New Delhi, India. A revolutionary to the core, he will be remembered for his sensitivity and wisdom through his passionate dexterity for words.

Chitra Ganesh Reveals Her Art

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart following the recent exhibition at Gallery Espace in New Delhi, examines the intricate art of Chitra Ganesh 

London: Colourful yet dark are perhaps some of the adjectives which best describe Chitra Ganesh’s art which is characterized by dichotomies. As such, her comic-like characters, often embedded with dark and disruptive connotations, are the main subjects of her works. In few words we are always quite unsettled and surprised in front of a Chitra Ganesh’s work. In a good way.

Chitra Ganesh, Matahari, 2011

Chitra Ganesh, Matahari, 2011. Image Credit:

In a recent interview with Neelam Raaj of the Times of India, Ganesh discusses and explains her art.

Born in New York from Indian parents, Ganesh through her multi-media works, plays with her “dual-identity” to express her self, and to better understand and communicate to her audience. However, despite her upbringing she is still considered “exotic” in America while the Indian audience finds her themes and characters quite familiar and easily recognisable.

Chitra Ganesh, The Exquisite Cruelty of Time, 2010

Chitra Ganesh, The Exquisite Cruelty of Time, 2010. Image Credit:

Her vivid artist vocabulary draws on Indian and American comics, Indian myths, religious iconography and much more, however a special attention is given to the “Amar Chitra Katha” comic book. After reading it again as a grown up woman, Ganesh paid attention to so many details she didn’t notice when she was younger. For example the female characters were depicted as pious figures yet scantily clad, and the rakshasis were depicted dark and the devis fair. So the artist realised that children books have more power than we think and through fairy tales they let us unconsciously accept stereotypes and set ideas. However not all of them are “bad”, in fact some children stories hold subversive meanings.

Ganesh hence decided to give power and prime role to those heroines who have been waiting all of this time at the side of powerful men. So, at least in her work she changed the history and went against the general expectations and replaced the Greek god Atlas and Hanuman with female characters!

Chitra Ganesh, Fingerprints, 2007

Chitra Ganesh, Fingerprints, 2007. Image Credit:

The artist also came to terms that now is the right time to make rebellion a long-term project and not a small act. She said “I now want to change things in a long-term way.”

Finally Ganesh noted that her intention is not to shock the audience but to openly include every aspect of our life in her narrative.

Chitra Ganesh, Madhubala, 2007

Chitra Ganesh, Madhubala, 2007. Image Credit:

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