City's art fraternity mourns Husain

A great void

Noted artist Yusuf Arakkal recalled fond memories of Husain as a personal friend, right from the beginning of his career. “I call him Baba, because he is like a father figure to me,” said Yusuf. Husain’s unbelievable success as one of the greatest artists ever owes much to his hard work and simplicity. “More than anything, I wanted to emulate his personality,” says Yusuf. Husain was down-to-earth and very serious about his beliefs. Nothing would stop him from his achievements, which led him into controversies as well.

Husain had travelled and stayed with Yusuf while he was a young art student. Once during an All India Radio (AIR) interview, Yusuf said he wanted to be himself — not another Husain in future, to which Husain reacted by saying, “That is what’s expected of you.” Yusuf said, “He was an artist of the world and it’s we who have lost him, not he,” referring to his being away from India in the recent years. The artist said that Husain wanted to spend his last days in India, which was made impossible because of unfortunate reasons. Artist S G Vasudev told Deccan Herald that after Ravi Varma, Husain was “the” artist who established himself as an icon of Indian art.

“It was Husain who popularised art in India. His great contributions will be remembered in history,” said Vasudev. His excellence in the skilled use of techniques on all media was an inspiration for many artists. “He touched the Indian chord,” making him all the more popular. While being excellent with epics and mythology, he always found space for ordinary people’s daily lives on his canvas.

Vasudev said Husain’s humble beginnings as a sign board painter helped him immensely to handle paintings of any size. He remembed Husain frequenting his studio at Koramangla to hold exhibitions.

Artist Anil Kumar said Husain, having begun his career in the 1940s, had seen all the milestones in the history of Indian art. “He was a star in the field,” said Anil Kumar.

Renowned for his paintings, he was a filmmaker as well, who bagged a Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival, 1967. “He experimented with post modernism in India, much before it became popular in the West,” Anil said.

Padma Shri award in 1955 took him to the peak of popularity. But despite wealth and popularity, he continued to work for another 56 years.

“However, we placed him only within controversies — more political than artistic. He deserves to be critically acclaimed, not just being popular,” said Anil.

“He stayed ‘alive’ throughout his life and was never passive,” said another artist, C F John. Husain was in touch with certain threads of Indian cultural fabric. He considered Indian women the embodiment of Goddess Shakthi and celebrated them as he saw them. He considered the difficulties he faced as forces of nature that were trying to mould him.

Free from dogmas, he could contribute to Indian culture, politics and cinema. He did have regard for religions, but called for a deeper inner churning. “He was accessible, supportive and was a person willing to listen and share ideas even with novice,” said John.

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