project #1

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Kakoo Dhawan

Indian abstract Artist
1929 - 2008

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Kakoo Dhawan was born into a well-to-do Delhi family. When he was around twenty-six years old he left his secure home and travelled north into the Himalayas. What started as a pilgrimage became a meeting with destiny.

Near the town of Almora, a well known Hill Station at that time, he came across the famous American painter Earl Brewster (1878 -1957), who had already moved to India in 1935 and lived in a simple cottage above town, which later, in the Seventieth, became known as »Crank's Ridge«.

Kakoo stayed with him to learn about art and painting.

A few years later came the Latvian born-Austrian painter Rudolf Rapaport, who called himself »Ray«. He had studied in Vienna under Oskar Kokoschka (1866 - 1980), moved later to the United States and became quite well known there. Back in Vienna he married the artist Grete Zirner, closely related to the old Viennese Jewish family of the Zwiebacks . From 1958 to 1960 Ray lived in Almora's »Crank's Ridge«, next to Kakoo. He became his second teacher, strongly influenced by the expressionist style of painting.

In the best of Indian traditions Kakoo sat at the feet of his chosen »masters« and they passed on their knowledge to him. It changed his life and he started a career as a painter in the Himalayas.

In the early Seventies we were able to meet up with Kakoo in his house above Almora, where he stayed with his wife Siet and kept a lot of his paintings. Kakoo never tried to meet the market or find a niche for himself. Partly he was too stubborn and felt aloof, sitting high up in the Himalayas where the world was meeting at hat time. He thought, he didn't have to go out, the world came to him. And he was right!

It was the Hippie decade and this brought Kakoo in touch with the famous and the crazy of the West without traveling abroad.

Timothy Leary and his wife became his neighbors, so did D.H. Liang and his family, the wellknown British psychiatrist, who was highly interested in Tibetan Buddhism at that time. Allan Watts strolled by when he visited the German Buddhist scholar Lama Govinda, who lived just 10 minutes away. So many Western »enlightenment seekers«, called »Hippies«, stormed »Crank's Ridge« that all long term inhabitants became quite reclusive.

It was in the end of the Sixtieth, twenty years of expressionist painting lay behind Kakoo, he was looking for a new challenge. It was in the winter, when as always, leopards came down from the higher reaches and were howling and growling around Kakoo's house in the night. The next morning he followed their footprints to a deep ravine. Suddenly he faced washed out boulders, high as a two storied house but shaped in the most exquisite albeit uneven forms, design by the river gods, crafted with the power of water.

»How can you«, he told me much later, »match this beautiful arrangement of form and function, of structure and strata, meticulously combined over a huge area, like land art of nature?«.

»I, for myself, thought, that this is beyond anybody's creative imagination, the end of ego-driven artistic endeavor, the end of what I ever could achieve with a brush on a canvas. If nature and the Himalayas can do that in ages what I cannot do in a lifetime, why should I continue to paint? I better observe and enjoy the myriad variations of boulders, rivers and the flow of life«.

At that very moment Kakoo stopped painting.

But we got him to Vienna and he did have an exhibition in 1975.

This is our project #1