I have often said how much I enjoy stumbling upon a small and unusual exhibition, so imagine my delight when I came across Room 38 at the V&A yesterday which currently hosts an exhibition of paintings by the late M F Husain.
details from The Language of Stone (image from exhibition booklet credit to V&A)
Titled (imaginatively?!) “M F Husain Master of Modern Indian Painting” the exhibition consists of 8 huge triptych paintings showing the richness of Indian civilization. The panels were commissioned by Mrs Usha Mittal, one of the wealthiest women in India (married to the industrialist Alok Mittal) as a tribute to Indian history. Each panel explores a different theme which when seen as as whole form what Husain called “a museum without walls”, a personal vision of India.
deatils from Modes of Transport (image from exhibition booklet credit V&A)
The panels draw together historic figures and events weaving them together with religious and symbolic iconography as well as memories from the artist’s life. They were originally conceived as a set of 96 panels, but Husain died while still working on them in 2011.
A Tale of 3 Cities (image from exhibition booklet credit to V&A)
Born in Pandharpur, Maqbool Fida Husain spent his early years in Indore and attended art school in Bombay, subsequently becoming a painter of cinema hordings in the style of contemporary European art movements, particularly Cubism.
detail from Hindu Triad (image from the exhibition booklet credit to V&A)
Looking at these large paintings it is the strength and vibrancy of colour that first assaults the senses, but as you look deeper the imagery comes to the fore. While the images are painted in a Westernised manner, there is also something particularly Asian about them, perhaps it is the way the figures interact with one another, or the stylized way in which some figures are treated, being reminiscent of traditional Indian silk paintings. Each panel is filled with figures and symbols showing India not only as an ancient civilization but also as a modern and progressive nation. More can be found on the V&A website here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibitions/mfhusain/about-the-exhibition/
The exhibition is open until 27 July 2014 and is free to enter.