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InFocus: Gopal Swami Khetanchi

Gopal Swami Khetanchi from a young age knew his roots and where he was meant to be heading in life. Born in 1958, he was introduced to his family’s artistic heritage at a mere age and at 15 he began learning to make it his own, from his father.

“It was hard to not get influenced by art with the kind of environment at home.” He says about his art influence in younger years. “Though I went on to make more painters such as Mr. Manak Joshi my Guru.” The now well known artist hails from the small town of Sardarshahar in the Churu District of Rajasthan.

By 28 years of age, Gopal Swami was ready to take up the mantle of a Master Painter himself. Gaining experience in Mumbai, painting pedestrians at Juhu Beach, he expanded his talent tree. Until he found himself in Bollywood as an assistant art director to Manzoor ul Haq in several Bollywood films like Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (1978), Abdullah (1980), Jwalamukhi (1980) and Kaalia (1981).

Post his Bollywood experience, Mr. Khetanchi decided to return to Rajasthan and channelise his creativity into only painting. He returned to Rajasthan and started with painting forts and culture of the state. His Rajasthani landscapes drew a lot of momentum with his renditions of Jaisalmer Fort, Amber Fort and many others. His exhibition titled Rajputana in 2012 displayed eleven paintings of various forts in Rajasthan depicted in his painting style.

In 2006 Khetanchi did what possibly was his most influential work, a reinterpretation of one of his favourite artists Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting Mona Lisa. It was a part of his series A Tribute to Masters, which included his own interpretations of some of the world’s most influential artists such as Michelangelo, Raphael, etc. Devashree and Bani-Thani were the two Mona Lisa renditions, the latter of which is a combination of the Mona Lisa and the renowned Indian miniature painting, Bani-Thani by Nihal Chand.

Mr. Khetanchi’s Bani-Thani was used in the promotion for Le Festival des Écrivains du monde: Écrivains de l’Inde held in Paris in 2014 and on the cover of the November–December 2014 edition of Nouvelles De L’Inde, the bimonthly publication of the Indian embassy in Paris.

This year, Gopal Swami Khetanchi received the State level Maharana Sajjan Singh Award that recognizes contribution to the arts, culture and heritage. He says, “The way we translate various languages, in quite a similar way my paintings are an Indian translation of artists from different ages.”

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