FRIDAY REVIEW

Mirroring a century

M.F. Husain makes an artistic statement on things that influenced the century. — Photo: Satish. H

M.F. Husain makes an artistic statement on things that influenced the century. — Photo: Satish. H  

— Photo: Satish. H

IN HIS 90 years, he has braved countless storms and seen much of the world that is now the focus of his latest art exhibition. The legendary M.F. Husain now wears a new mantle. From black and white to a world of colour, Husain brings the realm of the great events of the twentieth century to his artistic journey. The first 25 paintings of his perceptions of the events that defined the century of greatest change are on display at Cinema Ghar (Road No: 12, Banjara Hills, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.) till April 10.

Reality has never been far from his canvas and executing it by the lyricism of the brush and pigment, Husain unfolds the years between 1899 and 1999 with the fall of colonialism and the emergence of the free spirit at its centre. The text that accompanies all of these paintings, sometimes in prose and sometimes in verse, adds to the emotion.

Beginning with a plea for Olympian peace, the first in the series is a take on the oppression of colonialism and what could have been had there been more equality. The paintings in shades of browns and whites show men in `sola topees' sharing space with sheikhs, a painter (Husain) sharing a seat with a tribal and an Indian woman with a European woman. Next is the all-red composition depicting the fall of Tsarist Russia and the rise and fall of Communism in the manner of an unbridled wild horse, taking with it an entire nation and its people. World War II comes through many images - the cigar toting Churchill, the gun toting Marines, a tattered Union Jack and the remains of the day, the division of spoils shown through a game of chess and the Potsdam summit and the seeds of conflict. The rise and fall of Nazism, the phenomenon of M.K. Gandhi, the demise of colonialism in Indo-China and the triumph of Giap, the founding of the U.N. where East meets West, where Ulanova's ballet meets Bala's Bharatnatyam and the transformation of the Arab world through the trials of T.E. Lawrence, Kemal Ataturk and the rule of black gold all find their place in this gallery.

America's changing face, the American century and the nation's obsession and fear of itself, the nexus between MNCs and governments and repeated imageries of the tragedy of Ethiopia, our lack of concern for the environment in a flame of blue fish, green trees and brown horses is truly breathtaking. The century's obsession with the printed word, from Shakespeare to Marx to a book on wastelands, and the role of the artist in all of these are also portrayed brilliantly.

Husain's imagery through these paintings has made another identifiable place for him. These works reveal a successful mixture of the traditions he works with and his personal thinking of the events of the past century that have shaped his life.

Underlying this statement is the pride of a man who has been a bestseller for close to half-a-century and knows the value of his signature. And just like his other works, this too is a journey up the ladder of success, with no full stops.

DEEPA ALEXANDER

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