For Owais Husain, a prolific artist from a young age, the phrase ‘No one story to tell’ characterizes not only his varied experiences and influences, but also the multi-disciplinary artist he has become. The idea that the artist is a sort of cartographer, a storyteller charting the visual lexicons of their time for the next generation, is a core theme of Husain’s work. Using film, photography, painting, sculpture, installation and poetry – in various combinations or on their own – Husain creates visually textured works that both reference his roots in a traditional Indian figurative style and embody his constant pursuit to evolve and contemporize that iconography.
Husain’s work explores identity, iconography and urban mythology and it’s evolution from one generation to the next, illustrating his relationship with and abstraction of a more traditional Indian aesthetic. Whimsical references can be seen in his series To Speak is to Disappear, 2009, a set of delicate ink drawings on handmade Khadi paper of figures trying to communicate and connect to each other to no avail. In the painting, Sympathy vs. Empathy, 2014, a young boy and a Bengal tiger confront each other face to face, the boy appropriates the identity of the tiger with a mask while the tiger’s own face is hidden from the viewer. More complex and abstract are Husain’s Heart of Silence, 2015, a multi-media installation comprised of video, large suspended paper houses, light and reflection, and My Body, A Fleet of Ships, 2014, in which acrylic panels densely layered with photographic images and paintings surround fragments of terracotta figures. Both installations also incorporate poetry into the mixture of visual elements.
Having studied lithography and print-making at the Kanoria Centre for Arts and with apprenticeships under influential Indian artist Jagdish Swaminathan in Bhopal, and Robert Blackburn at the Printmaking Workshop in New York, Husain developed a rich mixed-media practice early into his career. While his practice is primarily based in painting, influences of Italian black and white cinema and the vibrant cinema culture of southern India led to Husain’s experimentation with film and sound in the 90’s. He has since directed and produced several feature length Hindi films, 2000-2007, and an experimental music track for the Abu Dhabi Festival of Thinkers in 2009.
Husain was born in 1967 in Mumbai and graduated with his Fine Arts degree from Sir J.J School of Art in 1990. He has exhibited in numerous group and solo shows throughout galleries and museums in India; including the National Museum of Art and Tao Gallery, Mumbai (1995 – 2010), Vadehra Gallery, New Delhi (1995 -1998), Gallery 88 Calcutta (2000), and Sakshi Gallery Bangalore (1994); and internationally at the Tate Modern, London (2001), Aicon Gallery New York (2006), the W Foundation, Seoul (2014), and the Burj Khalifa and Capsule Arts, Dubai (2013, 2015). His films have been screened at the London International Film Festival (2000), the Berlin Film Biennale (2001), the Cannes Film Festival and Melbourne International Film Festival (2004), the Tribeca International Film Festival, Doha (2010), and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London (2014).