In bright red shoes, sequined black tee, designer tangerine eyewear, artist Bose Krishnamachari is as colourful as his striking work, ‘Stretched Bodies'. Listed in GQ's (Gentlemen's Quarterly) 50 best dressed men in India, (June 2010 issue), Bose is sartorially glamorous but that's digressing from his main achievements. He is in the vanguard of the renaissance of contemporary Indian art.

In bright red shoes, sequined black tee, designer tangerine eyewear, artist Bose Krishnamachari is as colourful as his striking work, ‘Stretched Bodies'. Listed in GQ's (Gentlemen's Quarterly) 50 best dressed men in India, (June 2010 issue), Bose is sartorially glamorous but that's digressing from his main achievements. He is in the vanguard of the renaissance of contemporary Indian art.

A childhood spent between spells of hospitalisation and bouts of medical emergencies, Bose gave up his dream of becoming a doctor.

Freedom mantra

A resurrection, as he terms his recovery, led him into a world of total freedom. “My parents allowed me anything and everything that I wanted to do, as I was a sick child,” he recollects, saying that it may be the reason for his liberated mindset. Hence unconventionality and non-conformism and iconoclasm came easily to him, which later found ample expression in his work. And just as he never got to hear ‘no' as a child, it was only ‘nos' in his early days as an artist. His ongoing show, ‘NO' in Dubai deals with the several nays that he encountered in his struggle to reach this point of success.

Bose was expelled from Sir JJ School of Arts, Mumbai (1992) for voicing his criticism about the institution. Nevertheless, he says he owes much to the college. It was there that he found a platform to express himself freely and got his initial break, the college canteen was the perfect ground for unfettered interactions. His first solo show on the college premises was a sell-out and he was noticed. In a way he was arriving on the Mumbai art scene, though he was struggling to make both ends meet.

Doing portraits in five minutes at an upmarket restaurant ‘Mela' in South Mumbai was his first job and living in a ‘chawl' (community housing) with 12 other ‘migrants' in this dream city was perhaps the biggest learning lesson in his life.

Bose is sold out on Mumbai, on collectors, gallerists, curators, who make an artist what he is. “I am 100 per cent Mallu but I am also 100 per cent Mumbaikar.”

Migration is one of the most powerful tools in creativity, he says and now as a curator, doing international exhibitions, he realises it more so than ever.

In ‘Double Enders', a travelling show curated by him, he showcased the works of 69 artists on a national platform including many Malayali. Before that Bose had successfully curated the ‘Bombay X 17' show in Kochi where he showcased 17 Mumbai artists in Kochi, causing some displeasure among the artists from Kerala. “It did not bother me. It is important for artists to see and be seen by others. There should be no insularity in art.” Bose looks back on his Kalapeetom days as a perfect launch pad where he met up with many poets, filmmakers, philosophers and artists. This gave him an insight into other art forms. He was awarded the Kerala Lalitha Kala Akademi award in 1985.

“Contemporary art has no rules. All art is illegal because if one follows the rules then you are doing commissioned work or plainly mimicking. To be different one has to break the rules,” something which he has done without impunity. Bose's first show ‘Amuseum' was a pioneering one where he used all the forms of media on a single platform: painting, theatre, music, installation, architecture and design.

For the show he rented out a truck load of books at Rs. 5,000 a day and placed it pyramidal at the location, at Jehangir Art Gallery. It caused consternation but also got him rave reviews. “You have to look at each work in its historical perspective, especially if you are a collector. Some of Goya's works are visually disturbing but they are historically important and absolutely fantastic art pieces. Art need not be visually appealing. It can be ugly. Its history is imperative.”

If Bose is seminal in the contemporary art scene in India, he is also charged of introducing brazen commercialisation, a charge he explains thus: “I am a capitalist with a communist bent of mind. By communism I mean sharing. Only if I have wealth can I share it. What will I share if I am poor?

Bose does his philanthropy quietly. His latest project LaVA (Laboratory of Visual Arts) is his tribute to art aficionados. LaVA is a temporary library, a travelling art collection of reference books, DVDs, paintings and art related material providing art lovers with much needed exposure. “In Europe even little children know of Jackson Pollock.... we need to reach art out to our children,” he says, ruing the fact that there is a dearth of art exposure in the country.

Traditional

In his recently opened art space in Mumbai, BMB, which he has started with entrepreneurs Avanti Birla and Devaunshi Mehta, Bose has perhaps come close to full circle in an art journey as a painter, sculptor, curator, collector and now a gallerist.

The man from Mangattukara, Angamaly, says,“I am a very traditional guy. I am sad that my parents are not there to see my success. I have the gift of sharing from my mother. I like to believe that my designing, sculpting and architectural creations are from my father's talent in carpentry. He was an ‘ashari', you know. My brother and I were into theatre. Marriage for me is another career. I am very serious about it.” And he also tells you that both his kids Kannaki and Aaryan are inclined towards art. “Both begin their day with the art brush,” says a smiling Bose.

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