Ranbir Singh Kaleka
Ranbir Singh Kaleka Ranbir Singh Kaleka Ranbir Singh Kaleka Ranbir Singh Kaleka

Ranbir Singh Kaleka

Ranbir Singh Kaleka

Ranbir Singh Kaleka

b - 1953

Ranbir Singh Kaleka

Often erotic and libidinous, Ranbir Kaleka's works present themselves to the viewer, who might project their sub-conscience, in a way that already accounts for subverting any possibility of ambiguity on a subjective level.

Born in Patiala, Punjab, in 1953, Ranbir Kaleka earned a diploma in painting from Punjab University’s College of Art in Chandigarh. He spent the next few years teaching at Punjab University and College of Art, New Delhi, before leaving for London on a Charles Wallace scholarship to study at Royal College of Art from 1985-87. He stayed on in London for several years and returned to India in the late 1990s.

Often termed surrealistic, Kaleka’s works usually follow a dream-logic, refraining from coherent narratives. Though his earlier works from the ’70s seemed more internalised, weaving together apparently unrelated, fantastic elements, his later works remain open ended and in communication with the viewer, making their viewing an interactive experience. The libidinal element in his works remains masculine and primal, framed by phantasmal animal motifs.

In the later years, Kaleka found expression in video art, projecting video onto painted canvases. Here, too, the works attempt to draw the viewer into the narrative, such as in Powder Room (1999-2000), which uses a reflective surface. His video work, Man with Cockerel, was chosen for the group show ‘Indian Narrative in the 21st Century: Between Memory and History’, at Casa Asia, Madrid and Barcelona, Spain, presented in collaboration with the Walsh Gallery. The artist lives and works in New Delhi.

‘I’m not a surrealist painter… surrealists are sentimental’


artist timeline


Is born in Patiala, Punjab. Initially trained as a painter, his work has increasingly animated into two-dimensional canvases with experimental film narrative sequences.


Spends his college days in Patiala and Chandigarh, earning a diploma in painting from College of Art, Punjab University, Chandigarh.


His penchant for surreal juxtapositions is evident in early works merging video and canvas such as Hula-Hoop, in which the celebratory title contrasts with near-apocalyptic imagery of mutation. In works from this new medium, Kaleka mines motifs of his childhood in Patiala such as cockerels, horses and wrestlers, as well as his fascination for outré inventions and his absorption with light. His works from this period are a ‘sort of hyperimage’ that achieve an intensity and subtlety of colour, and imbue the static with a sense of movement through the superimposition of sound and movement.


Receives the Lalit Kala Akademi’s national award.


Is part of Geeta Kapur and Vivan Sundaram’s Kasauli Art Centre artist workshop.


Receives Sanskriti Award from the Sanskriti Foundation for his contribution to the arts in New Delhi. His paintings are increasingly an ode to magic-realism.


Pursues his M.A. in painting from Royal College, London, on a Charles Wallace Scholarship. London remains his home till his return to India in the late 1990s. His work centres around themes of animals, sexuality and tradition. The libidinal in his works remain masculine and primal, framed by phantasmal animal motifs.


Has a solo exhibition at Art Today, New Delhi.


Receives the Lalit Kala Akademi’s national award.


Returns to India from England.


Shifts from the strict use of paint on canvas, he finds expression in video art, projecting video onto painted canvases. Creates Powder Room which attempts to draw the viewer into the narrative through the use of a reflective surface. Is artistic consultant to the Basic Needs Pavilion Expo 2000 in Hanover, Germany.


His video work, Man with Cockerel, is chosen for a group show at Casa Asia, ‘Indian Narrative in the 21st Century: Between Memory and History’ held at Madrid and Barcelona, Spain, in collaboration with Walsh Gallery.


Exhibits in group show ‘Kapital and Karma: Recent Positions in Indian Art’ at Kunsthalle Wien Hall, Vienna, Austria.


Exhibits in group shows ‘body.city.’ and ‘Sub Terrain: Indian Contemporary Art’ in Berlin, Germany.


Is part of ‘Edge of Desire: Recent Art in India’ at Art Gallery WA, Perth. The show will later travel across the world in the years to come before finally showcasing in India at National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai, in 2007. Receives a residency at Sally and Don Lucas Artists Programs in Montalvo, California, U. S. A.


Receives a residency at Villa Montalvo, California.


Exhibits at the 51st Venice Biennale in the exhibition ‘i Con - India Contemporary’, co-curated by Julie Evans, Gordon Knox, and Peter Nagy.Has a solo exhibition, ‘ Crossings’, at Bose Pacia Gallery in New York, U. S. A.


His video work is shown at the Art Video Lounge at Art Basel Miami Beach, Miami, U. S. A. His work is also shown in the group exhibition ‘Hungry God: Indian Contemporary Art’ at Busan Museum of Modern Art, South Korea


Dr. Felicitas Heimann-Jelinek, senior curator, commissions Kaleka to make a Holocaust Memorial at Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, Chicago, U. S. A. The site-specific installation is titled Consider—a title inspired by the poem of the same name by Primo Levi, comprising of an oral testimony from Auschwitz. Has a solo exhibition at Bose Pacia, New York. Exhibits in the group show ‘ New Narratives’ at Chicago Cultural Institute, Chicago. Exhibits in group show ‘Horn Please: The Narrative in Contemporary Indian Art’ at Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland. The show also exhibits at Museum of Fine Arts, Berne Is part of group show ‘Urban Manners’ at Pirelli Hangar Bicocca, Milan, Italy


Participates in the 16th Sydney Biennale in Sydney, Australia, and is part of the group show, ‘India Moderna’, at Institute of Modern Art in Valencia, Spain.


Solo exhibition, ‘Fables from the House of Ibaan’, at Bose Pacia Gallery, New York.


Participates in the 4th Guangzhou Triennial, China. His video work showcases ‘MediaArtLab’ in Moscow, Russia. Participates in the 5th Prague Biennale, Czech Republic. Is part of ‘Contemporary Masterpieces from Private Collections’ at Singapore Art Museum, Singapore.


Is part of Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Kochi. Is part of Surrey Art Gallery’s exhibition, ‘In Transition: New Art from India’ at the Vancouver Biennale, Canada. Showcases at Artificial Garden, Nam-Seoul Museum of Art Gwanakgu, Seoul, South Korea. Is part of the group exhibition, ‘Back to Basics - The Museum Per se’ at Guangdon Museum, Guangzhou, China.


Is part of group show ‘Midnight to the Boom’ at Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts, U.S.A. Is part of Expanded Cinema- 3’s group show, ‘Mocumentary: Reality is Not Enough’, at M.O.M.A., Moscow.


Is nominated for the Asia Pacific Signature Art Prize by the Signature Art Museum, Singapore. Participates in ‘Visions and Beyond: Second Shenzhen Independent Animation Biennale’ at Shenzhen Art Museum, China.


Is invited to speak by Lalit Kala Akademi, Chandigarh, Solo exhibition, ‘India Week’ at Museum of Ethnography, Hamburg, Germany. Is part of ‘Sights and Sounds: India’ group show at The Jewish Museum, New York.


His ‘A Very Deep Surface’ solo at Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur.


Is part of ‘Delirium/ Equilibrium’ at Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi. Is part of ‘Asymmetrical Objects’ at Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai.


Receives the Punjab Arts Council and Lalit Kala Akademi, Punjab’s Gaurav Sammaan. His work is part of ‘Sightings: Out of the Wild’ at Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Noida.


dag exhibitions

The ‘Manifestations’ series of 20th Century Indian Art, Editions VI, XI

DAG, New Delhi, 2011-14

‘The Naked and the Nude: The Body in Indian Modern Art’

DAG, New Delhi, 2013; Mumbai, 2015

‘Navrasa: The Nine Emotions of Art’

DAG, Mumbai and Delhi, 2020

'Iconic: Masterpieces of Indian Modern Art'

DAG, Mumbai, 2022

archival media

The Metropolis

17-18 April, 1993

Business Standard

16 July, 2005

The Indian Express

26 November, 2013

The Pioneer

17 December, 2011

The Indian Express, Eye

24 March, 2019