The name of MF Husain is not unfamiliar to the world; He is remembered as the modernist contemporary artist of India. Born on 17th September 1915 in Pandharpur, India, Maqbool Fida Husain was a prolific and eminent modernist artist, writer, poet and a film maker. At the times when Bengal’s traditional style of painting was practiced by most of the artists and infusing European style was prohibited, Husain brought revolution in whole Indian art by adopting cubist style so the world gets aware of the modern techniques of Indian art. He transformed the traditional style of painting into modern and unique ways that brought him prominence and triumph. He was known as ‘Pablo Picasso of India’. Eye for art took pride to exhibit MF Husain at one of the biggest art festivals of the world, Art Dubai in its 14th edition of 2020.
Eye for Art USA feels immense proud having the art works of MF Husain in their private collection. Ali Haider, the Director of Eye for Art, felt to make the most of a great opportunity to utilise Art Dubai as a platform to have a cultural dialog and let art meet various borders. MF Husain spent the last few years of his life in the Middle East country – Qatar, Doha which linked him to the admirers residing in Middle Eastern countries. It was also a pleasure for Art Dubai to have his work exhibited at the fair.
The exhibition held at Hall 02 Booth M9. The art works were comprised of various mediums; inks on paper, oil on canvas and mixed media. Eye for Art chose to bring the exciting works from 60s and 80s to the spotlight. Husain was not just a name but a story with various colorful and dark chapters that he shared with the world through his art. The glimpses of humor and talent of storytelling could be observed in the works he has produced through his career. He used to speak to the viewers through his oeuvre. In the series showcased at the exhibition was a culmination of various themes Husain had painted before the time of his demise. He enjoyed deliberately making his paintings undecipherable as he believed that his paintings do not fall in the category of ‘wall decoration works’ or ‘drawing room decoration pieces hung on the walls’ but more thought provoking and disturbing. The balance of lines is ultra-fine and the textures and composition would stimulate senses yet symbols used in his work challenge a viewer. The unmistakable ink drawings are a portrayal of his mind and fascinations. Husain never believed waiting for an ‘inspiration’ but claimed that he could make thousands of canvases on any one subject; let it be a stone because whatever human is surrounded with is an inspiration given by GOD. Thus in a search of his mother he made hundreds of faceless females and maternal figures. His works mirrored his sentiments for his mother and solitude that he experienced till his last breath yet the paintings could not pour his heart with satisfaction or compliance of his search.
Horses are the most frequent subject he painted. His penchant for horses started when he began doodling in an early age. In one of his paintings he painted himself as a young boy who is doodling a horse. He adored and enjoyed painting the free spirit and strength of horses. Being a wanderer throughout his life, Husain gave an impression of a home in his art. He would not stay anywhere in the world more than a few years. He travelled bare feet all over the world and adjusted himself every time at a new place or country for time being. He was like a free bird who would build his nest wherever he would go. But in his unconscious he was always in a search for home that he actually explored in his art and expressed his search for a home onto his canvases.
He discussed the hollowness in his life and how homeless he felt after leaving India. His shifts to various subjects are interesting to observe. He excitedly captured the richness of Indian culture and civilisation that further sprout into his depiction of Indian rituals, dance forms, festivals, urban and rural life of India that clearly showed how religion and tradition together makes up Indian culture. He discussed the core folk culture of India. His illustrations, sketches and drawings seemed natural. A large mural sized 11 feet x 5 feet stole the show. This huge mural was exciting for the viewers to monitor and experience the diversity of subject Husain could splash on his canvases. The process of painting and linking one image with the other was one of the master strokes of the artist. He used to investigate his subjects during the process of paintings. The smooth, gentle yet striking mural won hearts of Husain’s admirers. The mural was one of the attractions of the exhibition as Husain’s murals are hard to find.
Growing up in diverse culture and experiencing and observing religions so closely, Husain’s interest in the system of universe grew. He did not paint cosmos following an idea. Nevertheless his approach toward such subjects was political and comprehensive that he showed through symbols. He defined the tuneful cycle and system of cosmos pleasantly in. From a far inspection, his works mainly comprised of true images of freedom of expression and speech due to which he had to face a lot of controversies.
Husain loved to collect the essence of every religion and would paint whatever struck his mind. He was unapologetic for his love of what he painted. Virtuous Husain spoke in resilient visual contemporary language through his oeuvre. He unbolted and expressed himself in many ways and emotions without any fright of being a Muslim for Hindus and an Indian for Muslims. His exquisite delineation of beauty was always in detail yet not easy to decipher the true meaning as his images had layers of meanings open to various interpretations; the more one untangles the more involved one gets. The striking artworks are not a narration of events, continuity of time and period nor confined in time. His work is timeless that commented on society, behaviors and evoke senses regardless of visually illustrating them. His work commented on the rituals, notions and social events. His creations are a true portrayal of past events, spirituality and freedom. Years of research and observation made him master the technique of distorting images in a unique form yet manifest his creativity and expressions. If one would closely observe the 40,000 paintings he produced in his life time, one could read the story of his life through his paintings; his search for his mother, loneliness, struggle, spirituality and free life style.
His paintings are an obituary for him and a walk through his life. Today Husain is among one of the most celebrated artists of the world. Husain’s art is his legacy. In his interview with Al Jazeera he said that he would always want to be remembered as ‘a man of renaissance’.
For him there was no relaxing place that he would call ‘home’ however he always had an urge to go back to India but the circumstances were not in his favor throughout. He produced approximately more than 40,000 paintings in his career of 10 decades and breathed last in London. He died at the age of 95 due to a heart attack and was buried in Brookwood Cemetery, Surry, England.