Want to own a Hussain?

IMPRINTS OF India, an exhibition of the selected works of M F Hussain will be held at 1 x 1 Art Space in Dubai from February 28 to March 29. The month-long exhibition will be the first of a series of worldwide releases. It is the first exhibition of recreations of the artist's 25 works

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Published: Mon 19 Feb 2007, 10:57 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 12:03 AM

hussainof art, and Dubai is the first leg of the series of exhibitions he plans to take to other countries. Dubai is privileged, for the works are limited editions. Only 125 recreations of each of the 25 work are available for sale to art lovers at affordable prices. They will not be reproduced again. The prize is expected to appreciate with each exhibition. A new technique has been used to recreate the original works. Each print will come with a certificate of guarantee and will be hologrammed, numbered and signed by the artist. These limited edition graphics, if looked after properly, have a life-span of over 80 years, according to the Wilhelm Imaging research Institute in Germany. Also on display will be a selection of books and DVDs on and by M F Hussain on sale at the gallery.

Dr P M Bhargava renowned scientist, writer and adviser to the government of India will be present at the preview. Hussain, the master himself will be at the exhibition in person.

Hussain's new technique involves throwing colour from the original on to a new surface. Hussain calls this technique M16. "M16 means 16 million shades of a colour," the artist explains. "The modern technology is able to capture and reprint the subtlest colours, which even the human eye cannot detect. All the nuances of the original work will be intact. Unless you go and touch it, you would not know it is not the original canvas."

How did he think of getting his works recreated using the new technique, one wonders. "It has been done in America and elsewhere," informs the artist. "I thought it was a good idea to take advantage of the new technology and reach out to more and more people who can buy art." In simple terms many more people can be proud owners of a M F Hussain work for a lot less than the original. "Today, even I can't afford my own work," he smiles. "What I am offering is for people with more aesthetics than money. Art comes from ordinary people and life and should go back to them."

Imprints of India is an innovative concept, the icon of contemporary Indian art informs. He elucidates further: "The concept actually harks back to the 1950s. For many years, a group of progressive painters, including me were thinking about graphic art. I remember, in the late 50s, Ram Kumar, Gaitonde and others did some lithographs. They were shown in Mumbai and Delhi. They were being sold for Rs25 each. Nobody showed much interest in them. They felt it was a reprint and they wanted the original. Those days, the original were about Rs500. Now no one can afford to buy them. Actually, Raja Ravi Varma had also thought of recreation of original works. He did some olegraphs, and that was how his art spread all over the country. There were reproductions in many homes. Art reached the masses. The British rule interrupted Indian art. I wanted to revive the reproduction of my works. I felt it had a lot of potential. India has one of the largest middle classes in the world. They have a tremendous sense of awareness. I thought that I should reach out to them. I think it took us artists almost 40 years to convince gallery owners and others that recreations can help spread art. Now, I have come up with the idea of exhibiting recreations of my works. It is not reprinting or reproduction, but recreation." Apart from selections from his earlier works, the artist has also done a few works specially for this exhibition.

Explaining the title of the exhibition — Imprints of India — Hussain says: "The images are of my country, India, and its culture, which is about 5,000 years old and immensely rich." He thinks that the West has become stagnant. "The soul is lost," he says. "India now is the major contributor to the world art, with a significant body of work done in the country. Fortunately, artists are being recognised now in the last one decade. All the auction houses recognise the emerging force of Indian art. This shows the tremendous upsurge."

Since people are looking for Indian art, it is a good time for artists in India, believes Hussain. He calls it the renaissance of art in India. What is more, art has emerged from the groundswell of Indian culture. It is Indian, yet universal. Why has he chosen Dubai to exhibit his recreations? "Earlier, France was the centre of art, then it moved to London, and then to New York. And from New York it went to Tokyo. And now, I think Dubai is poised to become the new centre of art and culture with so many new galleries. Here they have the resources so they can promote art," says Hussain.

Hussain turns his back resolutely on the idea that art is esoteric and elitist. "The concept of art as a part of day-to-day life was prevalent in India for many centuries," he says. "If you see the villages, the way celebrations are held, and how people paint their houses with art all over, and the way they paint their animals, and folk art and dance — all this proves that art is not meant for a privileged few. It is only a few with a Western-oriented education that have lost touch with their art and culture." And that is precisely what Hussain wants to revive.

Hussain has witnessed many art movements come and go as an artist, and is regarded as the icon of contemporary art. "Oh, I think I just made more noise than the others, and so people recognised me," he laughs. "But there are so many silent workers. The art movements are collective efforts."

Hussain, who in spirit can be called a Renaissance man, has a classical mind. "I revolt, but in a subtle way," says.

He takes you round the gallery and points to the paintings. To this day, art is his vocation and avocation. It is an all-consuming passion that has not dimmed with the passage of time. The mind is as fertile as ever. "These are from the horse series," he says. "And that one depicts Raag Deepak. And that is a doll's wedding that I did in 1950." He points to the famous depiction of India in a feminine form. And then there is the latest work, depicting his current muse Amrita Rao as Radha, with Krishna. "I don't believe in explaining my paintings," he says. "It's not a book. I'm not telling a story. Each person has to feel it."

Hussain is fortunate that his mind and body have kept pace with each other even at 91. How does he feel about it? "It's the greatest gift God has given me, and I'm taking full advantage of it," he says. "I don't want to lose a minute of my life." And he adds after a pause: "I take care of myself. And I walk and I paint. For me my art is a form of meditation. That's my prayer."



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