Balbir Krishan was born in 1973 in Bijrol, a farming village in Uttar Pradesh, India. He earned his master’s degree in visual arts (1997) and a postgraduate degree (2004), both from Agra University, India.
Krishan is a voice within contemporary art who dwells on the human body as a universal and personal subject. His paintings contain the grim realities and exalted fantasies of masculinity; a meeting place for utopia and dystopia. He and his work have been celebrated by the arts community, but also subjected to censorship, political pressures and even violent attacks by extremists in India.
In 2012, Krishan had great success with his solo ‘Out Here and Now.’ In 2013, he painted a large commissioned work The Woman Inside; The fable of Shiva, Mohini and Harihar for Engendered Gallery, New Delhi. It was exhibited in New Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai, India, in the traveling exhibition ‘RESIST.’ In 2019, Hong Kong-based Sunpride Foundation commissioned him to make two large canvases based on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalizes sexual relations between people of the same sex. These works were a focal point of “Spectrosynthesis II” at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre in Thailand. In 2020, Engendered Gallery displayed another large work, Am I Safe?, on the theme of gender violence at the India Art Fair. In 2022, Krishan exhibited at multiple galleries in New York City.
Krishan’s paintings are housed in private and institutional collections around the world. He is the recipient of Indian national and state awards, including multiple wins of the All India Fine Art and Craft Society and the Lalit Kala Akademi Lucknow State Award. Numerous publications have featured his work.
“I am a multidisciplinary artist and visual activist examining issues of caste, gender, sex-sexuality, human rights, disability, migration, labor, poverty, queerness, and mythology through canvases, drawings, collage and new-media work. In my autobiographically informed work I explore societal and personal states of mind like freedom, equality, love, hope, desire, trauma, pain, loss, struggle and survival. My work is characterized by a strong sense of aesthetics, despite some dark subject matter.
“I began my artistic journey with small drawings and evolved, eventually, to large multimedia canvases. Though I couldn’t afford art materials at first, I found that a simple ballpoint pen and scrap paper sufficed. Over the last 20 years, I delved into varied media and invented novel techniques, but pen and ink, acrylic, collage and canvas remain central to my practice. I execute my work with highly skilled and labor-intensive craftsmanship. Art is the antidote that resolved trauma-pain and healed me; each stroke and dot from my hand is part of a larger meditative process.
“I was born and raised in India in a farming village. I’m a queer Indian-American man, a child sexual abuse survivor and permanently disabled from an early suicide attempt. This earthly life informs all of my work. I had a harsh childhood and a youth filled with loss and grief. Art guided me through darkness, gave me hope, led me toward light and made me more human. It is the physical, mental, and emotional world I move in.
My work and I have been subject to censorship, moral policing, vandalism, and violent attacks by extremists in India, which forced me to leave the country and immigrate to the United States.”
See more of Krishan’s work on his Instagram page.