Portrait of an artist
The legend departs, what stays behind is a memory
TRIBUTE TO M F HUSSIAN BY FAROOQ NAZKI
Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth. — Pablo Picasso
It's an irony when ardent protesters praise voicing for a person after his death. Similar situation has been observed in the case of famous artist, MF Hussain who died at the Royal Brompton hospital in London on Thursday at 2:30am. 95-year-old Hussain was on a self-imposed exile and living in Qatar. He died of lung congestion.
Hussain lived in exile and accepted Qatari citizenship as he enraged Indian Hindu groups like – Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena and Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the groups attacked his house. The artist received life-threats many time from these Hindu-outfits.
Born on September 17, 1915, in Maharashtra Celebrated Indian painter initial years of struggle was followed by a long illustrious career when his works finally started gaining recognition in the 40s. He joined the Progressive Artist’s Group in 1947; the group was founded by Francis Newton Souza. There has no looking back for the artist since then.
Hussain organised his first solo exhibition in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1952. This was a new beginning in his carrier as his works gained recognition at international level. He received the prestigious Padma Shree award in 1966, and later the Padma Bhushan. He was also honoured with “Picasso of India” title by Forbes magazine during the golden years of his career.
Hussain, one of the highest paid artists in India, is greatly credited for taking the Indian art industry to a whole new level. Taking into account his role in development of Indian art he was appointed to the Rajaya Sabha for a term. It was Hussain who popularised the concept of investing in art in India. His first highest sold painting was ‘Paris Suite,’ a 22 series painting bought by a London based collector for USD 1 million. In 2008, his ‘Battle of Ganga and Jamuna: Mahabharata 12’ fetched USD 1.6 million, the highest amount ever paid at Christie’s South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art sale. His most expensive painting was recent sold at sold at a Christie’s auction for USD 2 million.
M. F. Husain, the painter par excellence that the world knows, the seeker at heart was all that and more for a Kashmiri like me. For me he was more a Qalandar than anything else. He died in a far away from the country he so loved. In exile, hurt; still proud. At 95 he still carved out a new life for himself as he had to leave amidst a lot or viciousness.
It is difficult to feel sad when you think of him. For there was nothing of that emotion in and around him. I had the rare pleasure of meeting and interacting with him on a number of occasions in Kashmir. He visited often not just as an artist but also as a seeker; absorbing and experiencing first-hand the sounds and smells. I remember him traversing the lanes and by lanes of maharajganj, zainakadal and the interiors of downtown Srinagar to get a feel of the real city, its real people. Here he could feel their heartbeats that are enshrined in the architecture. He heard in the noise of the narrow gallis the special rhythms of their life. He was always looking for something, trying to understand, to imbibe and then to reflect in his art. Probably this is what gave him and his art that authenticity.
I had many interactions in gatherings and also exclusively in studios with him. On one of these occasions he showed us one of his documentaries. And someone remarked that the documentary lacked a tad bit in focus. And Husain good-naturedly remarked that he he got so engrossed in the heroine he lost focus of the film.
On one such occasion he met me in my office in Doordarshan. As he sat opposite me, I just put a pad and pen in front of him. And he simply took it up and started sketching. Naturally and without any fanfare. He created two sketches for me. He would have done that for anyone putting the tools of his trade in front of him. And I was just lucky that it was me.
He painted too. But alas for a colleague of mine! It was a great experience to watch him do that. So natural and somehow so real. No easel and the airs of an ‘artist’ for him. He placed the canvass on the floor, put some weights on its sides to hold it in place and went straight to work, his paints and brushes neatly laid out by his side. And then it was just him and his work.
For us Kashmiris our relationship to the arts is a very curious one. Our senses are so flooded by the beauty of nature’s canvass that nothing seems to measure up to it. We are great practitioners of the written word. We are worshippers of verse and denizens of vast storehouses of imaginary landscapes painted by the written word. The beauty around us and the writings rooted in the sensibility inspired by that beauty is what inspires us.
But when it comes to painting we are a little diffident. Or should I say that it doesn’t impress our sensibility so much. We are in awe of what the great master himself has created for us. The lush greens of Gulmarg that change a shade every second, the starkness of Ladakh that reflects closeness to divinity and the majesty of our mountains seems to our eyes unsurpassable. Not that we have not had great artists amidst us. The cheerful and heartwarming paintings of Dinanath Wali , the works of S. N. Bhat, the internationally acclaimed art of G. R. Santosh and of many other like Bansi Parimu inspires and gladdens many a heart.
And we have had the greats of the artist community visiting the vale and drawing inspiration from its famed surroundings. The artists camps organized by the cultural Academy saw greats like Bandray, Heber, Ram Kumar, Shanti Dave, Laxman Pai and many others drink from the spirit of this beautiful land. They came here as part of the art camps organized by the academy. I don’t remember if M. F. Hussain was ever part of these camps. But I know that he visited the vale many a time but without too much fanfare. And I feel that is because as a society we are still more in awe of the writer than of the painter.
Once after seeing Gaja Gamini I tried to talk to him about his fascination for the female form that pervades most of his work. But time did not really allow for an extensive interaction with him at that point. What did come through in the conversation though was that he felt that the human form was one of the best medium of communication, more so the female form.
I organized a mehfil for him with G. R. Santosh and Khalid Sultan. It was a memorable time. Khalid held Hussain in very high esteem. For him he was a creator next only to the master creator himself. In this Mehfil I could feel that even though Santosh and Hussain were admires of each other but he never expressed his opinion about G.R santosh’s Art – especially his color combinations which had become inspiration for many artists in those times.
When an Art journal approached Hussain to gave a list of ten best artist of the country excluding himself. When Hussian drafted the list he left the first number blank. Most of the contempories thought that was Santosh.
Finally in 2002 he gave a written tribute to our own Bansi Parimoo in following words:
A dedicated painter from Kashmir whom I came to know during my early sixty visits. We became friends and his work gained a stature that could reflect the beauty and turmoil of Kashmiri people. The colour, the sound of its landscape create an orchestra of nature’s bounty. Parimu’s painting keep singing the song of creation that is Kashmir on our planet. Signed Hussain 01 Jan, 2001
Source: Jaya Parimu (Facebook) MF Hussain's tribute to Bansi-two artists (that) met (the) same fate-DEATH IN EXILE.
I feel sad that MF has passed on, but that is a fact of life and not necessarily an unwelcome transition. What makes me sad on his death is he had to die away from a place faraway, his own home, his motherland India so woven into his very being.
I saw him as indistinguishable from this country. The pain of having to leave and the pain of being questioned about his being must have been a very painful one.
Someone has said exile implies the dream of honorable return. But for Hussain the return did not happen. That is a sadness that will linger for a while in the right thinking people of this country. Hopefully he will have left it behind as he goes forth in his heavenly journey.
Lastupdate on : Sat, 11 Jun 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 11 Jun 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 12 Jun 2011 00:00:00 IST
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