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Two Boys on a Boat (2019)

© Matthew Krishanu Courtesy the artist. Photography: Peter Mallet





Oil, Board


46 x 61 cm


Presented by the Contemporary Art Society, 2019/20

Ownership history:

Purchased from the artist by the Contemporary Art Society, 2019; presented to Huddersfield Art Gallery (Kirklees Museums and Galleries), 2019/20


Black (presence)
Matthew Krishanu’s work looks back at his upbringing in the UK, India and Bangladesh, exploring notions of childhood, memory and place. Born in Bradford to a British father and an Indian mother, Krishanu emigrated to Bangladesh aged one before returning to the UK when he was 12. It is this period of early childhood spent with his parents and brother that features in much of Krishanu’s work. His other series of works have focused on the expat community he lived amongst in Dhaka and his father’s work as a missionary in Bangladesh.

Many paintings depict the artist and his brother exploring natural landscapes, recalling how these expansive spaces would feel to a small child. Yet the works are not from the perspective of childhood as it is experienced at the time but the act of looking back through the hazy filter of memory.

Two Boys on a Boat is set on a riverboat with the distinctively flat horizon of Bangladesh expanding into the distance. Two Boys on a Log depicts the brothers in Kashmir above rapidly cascading water; the boys are both precarious and assured in their position. The third painting, Boy in a Pool, shows a small, solitary figure in a comparatively vast body of water. Krishanu recalls that he and his brother often swam in pools or lakes; in this case they are in Kashmir. The paintings draw from photographs and memories, capturing how the passage of time makes early memories appear dreamlike: an effect aided by the eerie beauty of the landscape. Elusive childhood memories are easy to sentimentalise – something the works avoid by presenting childlike naïveté through the knowing gaze of adulthood.

Krishanu’s first major solo show ‘The Sun Never Sets’ was a landmark exhibition for Huddersfield Art Gallery. It cemented Krishanu’s status as an important emerging figurative artist. It is a timely acquisition that complements Huddersfield’s existing collection of British painting.

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