Husain also seems to have been influenced by the crowded temple friezes which are overcrowded and where the motifs are repeated almost ad nauseam. It is the crowd that seems to attract Husain more than anything else. But what does he do with these crowds? Do they speak out in some way or the other? In the temple friezes, there is no greater significance than that of mere ceremony. There is an element of devotion and it is reflected in the facial expression of each one of the repeated figures. There is an overall design in the frieze and there is a sense of balance. In Husain's murals, there is no balance. There is not even an attempt to create one.
And there is no narrative element in Husain's murals as there is in the ancient friezes. The narrative element has been beautifully brought to life in modern times in Nandalal Bose's panels for the Haripura Congress session where one set shows the death of Abhimanyu, the warrior-son of Arjuna who is killed by the Kauravas in a cruel manner. Nandalal Bose conveys the ferocity of combat. In contrast, most of Husain's murals are in a state of stasis. There is not much of movement.
It is not that narration and depiction of emotion is beyond Husain's capability. For some reason, he seems to feel that these are not important. He is focused on filling up the spaces. There is verve in the lines but what does it all amount to? There is nothing much to convey by way of story-telling or feeling. It would seem that Husain has taken to heart the tenet of 20th century abstract painting that painting is not about stories and sentiments, that it is about colours and volumes.
Husain does not also seem to think out his basic idea. He seems content to play with the image he chooses to draw. That is the case with the series on Madhuri Dixit. The canvases are teeming with Dixit images but they do not add up to anything. Husain would say that he does not want those images to add up to anything. They are ends in themselves. It is of course the prerogative of the artist to do what he wants to do. If he does not want to convey any meaning, that is his right. After the initial novelty, this image-as-an-end-in-itself becomes a dead end, a deadening series.
Husain will lose out in the long term because the idea is important, story and sentiment are important. Even a momentary glimpse of an image caught in the vortex is supposed to contain in it all the past and the possible future. That is what a photograph does. It captures almost the eternity in a moment. The moment in the flux is arrested. Husain will surely say that he does not freeze the moment but he conveys the flux. Again, Husain is on the edge, refusing to be meaningful. There is the wanderer about him in the paintings. The paintings are colourful but they do not convey anything. But Husain does not believe in this. He seems to think that he is conveying something. It is left to the viewer to arrive at his or her own judgment.
Sunday, March 07, 2010
Critics misread Alankrita Shrivastava's "Lipstick Under My Burkha" . It is not about feminism's liberation theology
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