Hanuman Kambli


Hanuman Kambli




Artist Profile

Hanuman Kambli is one of India's leading mid-career artists.

His work is of great interest because he has discovered a very personal way to express something quintessentially Indian at the same time that he expresses something modern. Like Mother India, herself, Hanuman Kambli has one foot in history and another in the future. From Rabindranath Tagore, we hear this "Therefore when we talk of such a fact as Indian Art, it indicates some truth based upon the Indian tradition and temperament. At the same time we must know that there is no such thing as absolute caste restriction in human cultures; they ever have the power to combine and produce new variations ..... proving the deep unity of human psychology".

Kambli's artwork can rightly be called narrative. The narratives contain elements of traditional imagery from both religious sources and Art sources about religion, but it also presents themes and ideas that are taken from his immediate environment. In his prints, one can see his family, his home, the land of his ancestors and the Indian Gods, along with the encroaching builders and `developers' who are transforming the sacred land into a global shopping center. He examines the contemporary tension between nature and culture, and the constant contradictions of perception an reality.The Multiple-headed Trimurti appears often in his work, usually two faces in profile, one oriented towards the left and the other towards the right. There is also another face on the frontal plane flattened so that the head is read more as a shape than as a volume. On the frontal-facing head, there is a vertical area which might be read as a nose, hair, stitches, tikka marks, or perhaps just a line separating each side from the other. There is the tikka marks, or perhaps just a line separating each side from the other. There is the concept of unity in diversity here and a reference to Soaham, but it is also a reference to concept of unity in diversity here and a reference to Soaham, but it is also a reference to "being of two minds on an issue" or of having a past as well as a future. A person steeped in the Western tradition might see the Greek God Janus in these images or perhaps, the art of Pablo Picasso. But, it is an Indian cultural reference also and Kambli is well aware of both sets of meanings and references. He often speaks of the individual who is reflected in the universal and the universal embodied in the individual.

Above all, Kambli has a very sophisticated sense of tone and line and the use of both for compositional purposes. His processes of working the copper plate include etching, engraving, drypoint, mezzotint and aquatint. He uses these processes to develop printed surfaces of beautiful richness and depth. The printed lines stand up from the surface in slight relief while the lightest gray tones caress the paper with the most delicate of ink deposits. His light grays are the kiss of a battery landing on a spring flower while his deeply etched lines are forceful cuts and wounds in the surface of the copper.

His Work is technically proficient and he employs the full range of techniques available to the printmaker. But, he is not merely a technician. Kambli employs techniques to enrich his images like the story teller who uses complex gestures and facial expressions to add life to his characters. Through technique, Kambli deepens his story by hiding some things in shadows and exposing others to the full light of day. He "builds" a wall of bricks and "constructs" a screen of doors that separate one set of actors from another. Through composition and technique, he divides and separates his picture plane into a metaphor of the narrative he is creating.

Printmaking in Europe and the United States has long been an art of political and social content as well as personal content. This is also true in Indian printmaking during this past century. Early 20th Century artists in India who worked with printmaking such as Benode Bihari Mukherjee, Haren Das, Nandalal Bose, and Mukul Dey all created images of what they found around them in their own culture. The images were often "pictorial and documentary, and, seemingly, contained little overt political content. Other artists who followed them in the 1940's, such as Chitta Prasad and early Somnath Hore, tried to use printmaking not only to depict what they saw around themselves, but also to call people to action. They wanted an art of social utility, one that would address inequity and cause the downtrodden to take action their fate. Hanuman Kambli continues in these traditions.

Hanuman Kambli avoids the polemic and the overtly political, but he does feel the need to take a position and state an opinion. In Kambli's prints, human expression and unfettered nature take precedence over commercial development. Personal feeling and family take precedence over political action. The handmade takes precedence over that made by machine. Quiet takes precedence over noise. Love takes precedence over hate.