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Creativity UNLIMITED

M. F. Husain was in Chennai for the opening of his exhibition of graphic works titled "Husain" Edition Limited, which is dedicated to M. S. Subbulakshmi

Dynamic presence, vibrant works: M. F. Husain — Pic. by V. Ganesan

THE NAME heralds the man, for while most people claim little knowledge of, or interest in contemporary Indian art, one name stands apart. Head and shoulders above an endless stream of artists' names, familiar and symbolic of all that is `modern' in art, that one name, of course, can belong to none other than that man of the masses, that doyen of modern Indian art, Maqbool Fida Husain, better known as M. F. Husain.

The biggest name in contemporary Indian art was finally here in Chennai at the opening of his exhibition of his graphic works titled "Husain" Edition Limited, comprising serigraphs, lithographs, digitographs, pictographs, posters and chin collé. The inaugural function allowed an almost darshanic vision of the master himself, his dynamic presence amidst his forcefully vibrant works. Introducing the artist, N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief,

The Hindu, spoke of "Husain saab's uphill climb, the challenges he has faced, his passion for India's composite culture," while asserting "but above all there is his art. I admire his tremendous commitment to freedom of expression, his creativity and humaneness, his reaching out to various strands of Indian culture and civilisation, people in various walks of life and deep understanding of diversity."

Graphic works, rare prints

Typical of the `man of the people', this show comprises over hundred graphic works, all part of limited edition series, thus easing the monetary pinch that would accompany acquiring a Husain painting, and yet, allowing for the satisfaction of actually owning what is truly a Husain. For as the saying goes, `a print is for people with more taste than money.'

The show also includes rare prints, including one that holds value for its distinction as his very first ever lithograph. Made in 1966 when Husain was part of the Progressive Artists Group (PAG) this particular print is part of an edition of twenty-five and was priced at Rs. 25 but there were no takers then!

Other rare works include those done in the chin collé technique where a thin piece of Chinese paper is laid on the etching plate or litho-stone with gum and a larger sheet of sturdy paper over it, thus gluing together the two sheets during printing. This technique affords the possibility of finer nuances and Husain is one of very few international artists to have worked in this medium. Created in New York in 1990, each of these works is unique in spite of the technology used.

Fitting tribute

An extensive array of his print series is on view, ranging from mythology to religion, Mother Teresa and his most famous Horses. But pride of place has been reserved for his painting in acrylics of the late M. S. Subbulakshmi, her name written and signed by Husain in Tamil, dated 11.12.2004. Created in his characteristic style, this is indeed a fitting tribute from one genius to another, the exhibition itself being dedicated to her life, work and memory. Another relevant gesture is the display of a series created in 1980 and titled `Culture of the Streets.' It focusses on the colours and images of the Madras of yesteryear paying homage to the Tamil cinema culture through the ubiquitous cinema posters that almost clothed all the walls of the city. The images bring back poignant memories of our colourful past, our undying love for vernacular cinema.

Mona Lisa and Madhuri

Also on show is Husain's take on that famous woman in art, La Gioconda, more commonly known as the Mona Lisa. Following the numerous interpretations of Leonardo da Vinci's original from the likes of Marcel Duchamp and Salvador Dali, Husain allows Madhuri Dixit that sacrosanct guise. Using digitography where images are digitally lifted from celluloid print and transferred onto paper, she is transformed into the Mona Lisa, replete with an ornate gilt frame.

There will be special screenings of a short film of his exhibitions and art performances providing an insight into the man and his work, and also his films "Gaja Gamini" and "Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities." The display also has publications on the artist that allow for a holistic understanding of the multi-faceted person that is Husain.

This exhibition marks the debut of one more new art space in the city, this one comprising 5,000 sq. ft. of gallery space on two floors — the Lakshana Museum of Fine Aarts — the finishing touches to which were still being put on five minutes before the show. But what a show, what an opening! Lakshana Museum of Aarts is indeed starting with a bang. The exhibition is on till January 22 at Lakshana Museum of Aarts, 8, Judge Jumbulingam Street, Mylapore.


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