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Artist Profile3
Like father like son: Keeping a great artistic legacy intact
He is an artist boasting of probably the most recognizable surname in modern and contemporary Indian art history. His father is undoubtedly among the country's most internationally renowned and respected painters, unfortunately mired in controversies ever since he ruffled the religious feathers of touchy morality brigade. Having accepted citizenship of Qatar after a prolonged exile, MF Husain is unlikely to revisit his homeland. However, his youngest son Owais is certainly keeping the family name and a proud legacy on the Indian art scene intact.

The master painter, known as the pioneer and trendsetter of Indian modern art in the post-Independence era, was forced to give up on his Indian citizenship after a spate of protests. For record, Husain was forced into an exile in 2006 after a spate of criminal cases were slapped against him across the courts in India. Owais was supportive of his father's decision, mentioning how his life fraught with tragedies left him with hardly any other option than to desert his motherland. Describing his state of mind, he had revealed: "It was almost four years since he had been living outside India. Though he sought Qatari citizenship, he would always remain an Indian in his heart & soul."

Now that the dust has settled down a bit, he wants to take a dispassionate look at the turbulent times faced by his father. He has already outlined a documentary, focusing on the emotional turmoil during this trying phase as revealed in letters akin to emotional testimonials about what he experienced during the exile. Incidentally, Owais Husain is also enhancing his reputation as a talented and dynamic artist. He does not carry that baggage of being an illustrated father's son. His deft brushstrokes create thickly delineated forms in constant movements. He prefers abstraction than pure forms. Notably, the element of the narrative is strong.

It is not easy to decipher the fine layers of meaning embedded in his works. They have to be seen and perceived through his eyes. For example, in one of his earlier exhibition essays, he has stated: "The largest struggle we are witnessing today is not between nature and technology or between conflicting moral beliefs; it’s between our inner and outer lives. It’s the old philosophical 'mind-body' problem reaching a crescendo as an ecological drama where the end result rests not upon our realization alone that the natural-physical environ is one & the same as our bodies, but also that nature in itself is a form of mind.”

His equally powerful figurative work tends to dwell upon transfixed moments between ubiquitous people and situations. The complex works he often creates like house that you can find entry through both a window and a door to fathom the mystery. And as long as they elicit a response, he has no complaints. Peeping into his restless mind, an AFP report notes: “To meet him is to understand why he opts to work in so many different mediums. He speaks in metaphors, jumping from subject matter to another and readily terming himself a ‘misfit’ who cannot be categorized neatly.”

Born in 1967, Owais Husain did his BFA (Painting) from the Sir J.J School of Arts, Mumbai and was at Worked at Kanoria Centre for Visual Arts, Ahmedabad (1991-92). Among his significant solo shows are ‘Forest of Lost Languages: Return of the Native’ at Gallery Arts India, New York (2006); ‘How we are living these days’ at Vadehra Art Gallery, Delhi (2000); ‘The Present is the Source of Presences’, Vadehra, Delhi (1998), and Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai (1997). His selected group exhibitions include 'Keep Drawing', Gallery Espace, Delhi (2008); ‘Contemporary Indian Art Today’ courtesy Vadehra at Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai (1999); ‘ICONS’, Lakeeren Gallery, Mumbai (1999); ‘Legatee’, Sir J.J alumni exhibit, Fine Art Company, Mumbai (1999); ‘Four Young Contemporaries’, Cymroza, Mumbai and Sakshi, Bangalore (1993), among others.

His just concluded exhibition, incidentally the first solo show in Mumbai for nearly a decade, has drawn critical applause. Putting the series in perspective, the artist reveals how he has been silent or quite a while, before feeling an urge all of a sudden to vent the thoughts bottled up inside his head. It’s an echo of the silent phase he has suppressed all this while. The new set of work revolves around an ensuing battle between one’s heart and the mind. It displays the various facets of relationships. He is currently working on an experimental opera, having just finished shooting a film that will mark his directorial debut. Spelling out the difference between painting and filmmaking, he narrates that art is a solitary act whereas film involves a different kind of mathematics where one can get more experimental.

Though traces of influence of his legendary father can well be detected, the sensitive artist has managed to create a niche for himself by following a totally different and refreshing approach to painting - slightly more intense and introspective - in a sense, more autobiographical in nature.