Archive for the Art Category

Passing on, bare feet… by Pritish Nandy

Posted in Art, Pritish Nandy, Times Blogs, Times of India with tags , , on June 17, 2011 by Sharmila

I do not want to talk about my friend Husain here. Everyone has bored you enough with that already. Every hustler, every socialite, every idiot has claimed undying friendship with him. So, instead, I will tell you about the man I knew. Continue reading

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Brush stroke of an artist…

Posted in Art, Social with tags , on February 26, 2010 by Sharmila


Over the last few weeks I have visited a few galleries, spent a fair bit of time at the Louvre in Paris and in London at the Victoria and Albert museum,the national gallery, the Queen’s gallery amongst a few. Understanding or trying to understand what the artist is trying to portray is not an easy feat. The viewer’s mind is not synchronized with the artist’s and there is a good chance that the interpretations of their work can be very far off the mark. At the Louvre hangs over six thousand paintings from the late thirteenth century to the mid-nineteenth century. Francis I amassed Italian paintings and works of artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Titian, the La Caze collections and Napoleon III’s purchase of the Campana collection contribute to the Louvre’s treasures. Nudity is rampant in most of the work and portrayal of mythological gods and goddesses in compromising postures is not uncommon. Paintings of Michelangelo Merisi ( Caravage ) who started an artistic revolution by injecting immediacy and drama into religious themes, where the virgin is painted as a corpse and the apostles are burdened with grief is displayed in these museums amongst a myriad other such work.

Freedom of expression via painting, writing, acting or any other form cannot be snatched away by tyrannical and oppressive elements. There must exist a maturity and acceptance of the artist’s work. A true artist creates work for himself first and for public consumption later. If the order is reversed, the artist is not true to his senses. Each mind perceives a painting in its own way and the mind has the right to reject or accept the artist’s work but it does not have the right to suppress the work of the artist. MF  Hussain has had a fixation on Hindu Gods and Godesses and used them in his various works. Nude paintings of the hindu gods have created a furore and Hussain has been on the receiving end of the viewer’s whip from the hindu community. Legal action and death threats forced Hussain to go into exile. I remember seeing him a few years back in the lawns of Bangalore Club, at that time his fixation was on Madhuri Dixit, nobody had a problem with that and most certainly not Madhuri Dixit.

Hindu art has displayed sensuality from time immemorial. The ancient temples at Khajuraho have erotic carvings on the outer walls bearing nymphs in compromising postures. There are no such erotic carvings near the main deity. The main deity in all hindu temples reside in the sanctum sanctorum, a safe distance away from the erotica.The artist of the yesteryears showcased sensuality as unacceptable to the Gods and he also showcased sensuality to be abandoned by the worshipper, at the doorstep, before entering the sanctum sanctorum. This is how the audience have interpreted the artist’s work. If the artist had a completely different opinion, we would never know. The deemed interpretation in many ways became a dogmatic belief.

Bending and experimenting with religious beliefs through art work via paintings and written work is not acceptable to the wider audience in many countries. Salman Rushdie tried and faced the flak. He was persecuted in a similar way that Hussain has been. Within India, a select audience accept Hussain and Rushdie and see them as artists who have the right to experiment. An artist converts his free flow of thoughts into tangibility on a piece of canvas or paper or a wood board or through dance or drama. The western audience are more accepting of art work of all forms. The difference in thinking and acceptance is like chalk and cheese when it comes to art. There is respect given to the artist’s freedom of expression. In fact, artists are the upholders of the true meaning of democracy. If we cannot accept art work in its free form, we are not a democratic set up, we stray towards a totalitarian one.

Hussain has taken up citizenship of a country which is not democratic but totalitarian. There is word that the Kingdom of Qatar have done a multi million deal with Hussain for opening a museum where he can showcase his work “freely”. Will Quatar let Hussain experiment with islamic themes and subjects in his art work? Will Qatar allow Hussain to showcase such work in the proposed museum?Most surely not. Hussain is 95 and does not have too many years left of his life. Returning to India would be difficult given the number of cases pending against him. He has spent 95 years of his glorious life living as an Indian. I wished he would die as one too, even if it were not to be on Indian soil. India made him who he is today, for good or for bad? More good than bad I think, albeit even if the bad cannot be shunned, the good cannot be forgotten either. The controversies started in his life as late as 1996, he was already 81 by then, famous and India’s highest paid painter. Legally he may be a Qatar citizen, but he has disappointed a country that supported him for a great part of his 95 years. At the age of 95 he has made a democratic choice for a totalitarian country. Is this another freedom of choice that we have to accept? Hussain has chosen a multi million dollar deal and traded his citizenship for it. What is the value he attached to his Indian citizenship I wonder. Not much, is my answer.We may be disappointed with his choice, but we have to accept it. There is little point in forced or false loyalties. True loyalties always stand the test of time.