Krishna Reddy

“I feel above all else, printmaking makes one learn to be humble.”

Born in Chitoor, Andhra Pradesh on 15 July 1925, printmaker and sculptor Krishna Reddy studied art at the Vishwa-Bharati University, Santi Niketan, West Bengal. From 1947 to 1950 he headed the art section at Kalakshetra, Chennai. Later, with the help of philosopher-writer J. Krishnamurthy, Reddy traveled to Europe, where he spent his most impressionable years. From 1951 to 1952 he studied art at the Slade School of Fine Arts, University of London.

In later years, he worked under Hayter in Paris as Associate Director of the printmaking studio Atelier 17, as well as in the studios of Henry Moore in England, Marino Marini in Italy and Ossip Zadkine in Paris. It was at Atelier 17 that he first began to develop his unique printmaking technique.

He pioneered and mastered the color viscosity process, in which a metal plate is etched with acid or prepared with machine driven tools to form several layers. Intaglio color is applied by hand and excess ink, especially from the upper layers, is wiped off. The remaining colors are prepared with linseed oil. Each color has a different viscosity so as to repel each other on the plate. These colors are then rolled on the plate, with the help of rollers of different degrees of softness, the hardest reaching the lowest layers. Each print appears as an individual multicolored image. An outstanding innovator and experimenter, Reddy sees the plate as a sculpted surface, and intaglio printing as a three-dimensional process. By varying ink viscosity and roller density, he has achieved colors of extraordinary complexity on the plate. Reddy`s discovery of the principle of color viscosity has greatly simplified technical processes while at the same time increasing the expressiveness and intensity of the image.

His prints, often done in semi-abstract or abstract, revolve around subjects from nature, besides human figures. A worshipper of nature, he has an ability to invest each engraved plate with an elemental experience that subtly merges with the spiritual. Yet, what Reddy does is to strip his sketches of all-extraneous detailing. He has constantly followed his guru Nandalal Bose`s advise to look beyond mere imitation of nature.

There is very little comment on the human condition or the modern world in his works. There is a definite thematic and stylistic links between his prints and sculptures. The latter include works in bronze, stone, terracotta and marble. His works in marble have a feeling of elegance and poise. Reddy`s works, at most times, come from the real. The ‘Clown’ series, for instance, grew out of a visit to the circus along with his daughter. Among his popular large-scale sculptures is Aspiration, which was executed in Canada.

The artist counts print maker Giacometti as a major influence on him, one that resulted in his now familiar vocabulary of vertically extended images of clowns and women. Besides, his early years at Santi Niketan and the time that he spent with sculptors Henry Moore and Zadkine changed the way he approached both printmaking and sculpture.

During the 1950s, the quality of Reddy`s work began to be recognized at a number of individual and group exhibitions. He also began to teach more widely, at the American University, Washington and Stout, University of Wisconsin, Menomonie. He has participated in the International Symposium of sculpture held at St Margarathain, Austria in 1962 and in Montreal, Canada in 1964. Today, he serves on numerous award juries, ranging from the Society of American Graphic Artists to the Lalit Kala Akademi of India and directs the Graphics Program at New York University.

Reddy has written a comprehensive reference on the art of color printmaking, a book that doesn`t expect the reader to know a lot, but at the same time, doesn`t omit any technical detail. He talks about the necessity of simplification, of exploring the very essence of nature in one of the essays.

Awarded the Padma Shree in 1972, Reddy was also recently honored as one of the guest Invitees to the Silvermime National Print Biennial in USA. His works can be found in several private and public collections, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, the Albertina Museum, Vienna, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

The artist passed away on 22 August 2018 in New York.

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