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Glimpses of Owais Husain’s works at ‘Start Doha’ art fair


Raynald C Rivera | The Peninsula

Identity, memory and displacement. These are the recurring themes conspicuous in versatile multimedia artist Owais Husain's works as he attempts to explore his ability to curate history as an artist with a canvas so vast and a life too short, he says.

As the youngest son of M F Husain, considered the most celebrated and internationally renowned Indian artist of the 20th century often called the 'Picasso of India', Owais sees himself very different from his father in their artistic paths but very similar in their thirst to explore them and discover their own identities.

"In think our works and paths are very different from each other because he started 50 years before I began as an artist so his time and context of history, which influences language, were different. The similarity was that we were raised and share about who we really were wanting to find out where our selves really belong to-our identity," Owais told The Peninsula.

Though they belong to different schools and generations as his father was very much associated with modernism while he is a contemporary artist, they are both prolific with an unquenchable thirst for art.

"I think the biggest point of being exposed to him was I have this insatiable appetite that I feel I should explore through expressing my work. I feel the canvas is too immense for me, more vast than what my hand can reach so I'm trying to sort of explore that expanse. I want to explore my creativity, my expression, my ability to express visually."

Fluent in film, photography, painting, sculpture, installation and poetry; Owais assumes a 'polygamous' relationship with art in the form of various mediums, which he considers his muses.

"I tend to fall in love with my muses whether it is painting, poetry, film, or photography. I live in a kind of complex relationship with my mediums which I call my muses. It's a kind of polygamous situation. I am very much at ease with each medium."

It is but explicable to see the artist's eloquence in varied art forms looking back to his fecund experience in chasing his artistic expression from a tender age.

"It's a lifelong process; it's not now. From the time I did my first painting at three to writing poetry from age nine to running away from boarding school to wanting to be an artist at 11 to discovering and falling in love with cinema at 17. The only thing I knew was to paint but I wanted to explore abstraction and because I wanted to explore abstraction I was always in a curious mode to explore these different mediums."

From among the rich collection of works on display at the first Start Doha contemporary art fair, Owais' body of works stands out not only for its aesthetic value but for its texture and depth.

"Most of my works are all about identity and displacement. We live in a very transient world and it's not something new that I have discovered. It's something that I've done all my life. I'm a multimedia artist who always looks for new voice and forms and who is also interested on the theme of homeland, of loss, and the relevance of memory today and our ability to curate history."

The artist has an indispensable role to find relevance in the place and time of his existence and act as a cartographer of visual contexts for the future generation.

"It's a matter of survival because we can only remember that much history which is only relevant to us today. We live in an interesting time when the world is shrinking in so many ways in terms of communication and access to information. As an artist I think it is most exciting to be living in these times because the role of an artist is to find relevance and create maps of relevance and of contexts of his or her time."

The artist's light box series "There is no present. We only exist between the future and the past" are fascinating as his latest video piece "The Unfolding Wall" is intriguing.

The Unfolding Wall (2016) is a video of water in a steel trunk reflected through a mirror which for the artist conveys a number of themes relevant today.
"It's about reflection but at the same time it's about water which signifies not only wisdom in ancient culture but also pathway to a kind of a movement like the traditional idea of voyage to the seas, in which we see the hard reality of it through migration."

Although all the pieces are equally important, the steel trunk is central in Owais' collection of works serving as its highlight.
"The whole trunk is a symbol of storehouse of memory as well as of mobility, a displacement in that sense but also it desires to be invisible in its environment that's why it's full of mirrors. It doesn't know that you can still see it but if it were an organism, if it had a mind of its own and a heart of its own it would desire to be invisible."

On its inaugural edition, Start Doha was organised in parallel to The New York Times Art for Tomorrow Conference which concluded yesterday. The exhibition is still open today from 9am to 9pm on the 29th floor of W Doha Hotel & Residences.

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