India's most famous artist, M.F. Husain, who passed away in London on Thursday, had a long and fond association with Bangalore.
The legacy of this relationship is a deserted bungalow in Koramangala where he set up a small art studio gallery.
Sankalana, one among four centres he set up across the country, was dedicated to graphics, while the Hyderabad centre focussed on film, and Ahmedabad and Faridabad on paintings.
In its heyday, Sankalana hosted art exhibitions, discussions and readings, short music performances and film screenings.
Husain had dotingly conceptualised it as a ‘public space' for art, accessible to all. It opened in the late 1980s and was a vibrant hub till around 2003, and was the flamboyant artist's home during his visits.
The land for Sankalana was allotted under the artists' quota by then Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde, who was a good friend and admirer.
Gurudas Shenoy, curator of Sankalana and the artist's close friend, remembers the day Husain called him back in 2007, and shut down Sankalana.
“He was deeply pained by all the controversies, and did not want to trouble anyone. All his works were then moved out, and my wife and I shut the place down,” he told The Hindu. Like all artists, Mr. Shenoy adds, he was a “deeply sentimental and misunderstood” man.
Mr. Shenoy, who has just completed a book on his father — the distinguished artist G.S. Shenoy who was Husain's contemporary — was to travel to London in June to show it to the artist in exile, who himself had authored a chapter on his old friend. The two artists had together participated in many Karnataka Kala Melas.
Early works, others
Sankalana showcased several of Husain's early works, Raag Des and Raag Bilaskani Todi, large portraits of C.V. Raman and R.K. Narayan, and some paintings from his Mother and Child series. It also featured his paintings, reworked as silk screen prints, serigraphs, chine-collé and early woodcut. This was part of his attempts aimed ostensibly to make his works more affordable, says Giridhar Khasnis, art critic.
Mr. Khasnis recalls how Husain, an avid cinema lover, set up a large canvas at the RSI Grounds on M.G. Road to paint his tribute to Satyajit Ray a week after his death. He painted his homage before a live audience. Baba, as Mr. Shenoy fondly called Husain, loved the simple things in life. He loved Bangalore, its trees, bustling markets, and its non-fussy eateries. This totally rooted Indian was heartbroken when a part of the Airlines Hotel, which was among his favourite haunts, went. Many an old Bangalorean remembers Husain walking barefoot in and out of the open air café in the 1980s and 1990s. He also loved Kamat's idli-sambar and hanging out at Cubbon Park.
Husain was Baba to another noted artist, Yusuf Arakkal, who told The Hindu he felt like he had just lost a father figure.
He first met Husain when he came to talk to art students at the Chitrakala Parishath in the 1960s. “Though never influenced by his work, Husain's personality had a tremendous influence on me.”