Son of illustrious painter M.F. Husain, Shamshad Husain, who took more than ten years to emerge from the shadows of his father, has managed to carve out a niche for himself as an artist, says Madhur Tankha.
His love affair with the brush began at an early age. In fact, it will not be an exaggeration to say that painting is in Shamshad Husain's blood. Son of the illustrious painter M.F. Husain, he has managed to carve a niche for himself in the vast field of art all on his own. As a professional artist, Delhi-based Husain observes human forms carefully and then draws his paintings. Over the years, he has created a series of paintings, done mostly in oil on canvas, which have been displayed in various galleries in India and across the globe. And he has also created sculptures and murals.
Recounting his childhood days in Mumbai, Husain says he used to often accompany his father to cinema halls. "While my father used to draw cinema hoardings, I dabbled on a piece of paper. During the day he worked hard on hoardings and at night he painted under the lamppost because of lack of space at home. Those days we lived in a one-room apartment in Mumbai. There hardly used to be sale of Indian art. If 150 to 200 works got sold then it was like a bonus. While I used to hardly see any film, my father was keen on entering the film industry." Revealing that he learnt a lot while studying at Royal College of Art, London, Husain says there he came across leading British painters like Hodgkin, who opened his vision towards art.
Stating that it took him more than 10 years to emerge from the shadows of his father, Husain says that he decided to settle down in Delhi in 1968 deliberately to stand on his own feet. "I became known only after developing the vocabulary in my works. In the beginning, people used to say that I am M.F. Husain's son without going into what I had depicted in my works. I used to get a little bugged then but have now managed to overcome my annoyance. I am happy if people accept my work, if they don't then it is their problem."
Speaking about his style of work, the artist says: "To create figurative works, I observe a lot and also do extensive travelling to different parts of the country to see how people chat and gesticulate. I also observe the environment around them and focus on the positive side of every individual. Everybody has both good and bad qualities but I always try to depict something positive. As you travel around the countryside, you can see the difference in terms of human forms, dress styles, gestures, language and the whole environment."
Revealing that he first travelled to the Bastar district in Chhattisgarh as a professional artist, Husain says during his one-month stay there he observed the local tribes. "While women were hard-working, their men folk used to just sit idle. Women also looked after household chores like cooking and looking after children. Though I could not understand the language part, I could make out from the gestures." In the sixties, Husain travelled all the way to picturesque Sikkim to make a series of paintings. From the window of his hotel room, he could see people's bodies but not their heads. So the end result was that he painted a series on "headless bodies".
He also travelled across Europe where his exhibitions were held. He got a favourable response in London and Germany, while in Geneva his entire collection was purchased by a gallery owner.
Revealing that his father wants him to put in more hard work as an artist, Husain says: "My speed is slow. It takes me a month's time to make one or two works. My father is a restless man, who paints, makes pictures, writes poetry and takes pictures. I admire him a lot. He never used an easel while painting. Besides, while travelling across the globe, he observes a lot. He has much more talent than me."
When asked about M.F. Husain's obsession to make a painting on a horse, Husain says: "My father first painted on a horse on the day when my elder brother got married. That was way back in 1966. He had also painted on a horse at India Today's gallery in New Delhi in which one of the forms was of Bollywood actress Madhuri Dixit."
Putting at rest speculation surrounding his father's long absence from the country, Husain says the former is busy working on a painting series in Dubai. "In fact, last month he was invited by Kofi Annan to make a painting in the office of United Nations. In March next year, he will again be travelling to Geneva to make a large painting on the UN building." Presently working on an autobiographical series, Husain says he will be coming up with 15 paintings of his family including his grandfather. The exhibition will be held in Mumbai by the end of the year.