Artist in Exile – M. F. Husain
M F Husain, born on September 17, 1915, in Pandharpur, Maharashtra, is one of India’s best known artists. According to Forbes magazine, he has been called the “Picasso of India”.
In the 1990s, some of Husain’s works became controversial because of their portrayal of Hindu deities in the nude. The paintings in question were created in 1970, but did not become an issue until 1996, when they were printed in Vichar Mimansa, a Hindi monthly magazine, which published them in an article headlined “M.F. Husain: A Painter or Butcher”. In response, eight criminal complaints were filed against Husain, including complaints of “promoting enmity between different groups … by painting Hindu goddesses — Durga and Sarswati — in an uncharitable manner hurting the sentiments of Hindus”.
The controversy escalated and in 1998, his house was attacked by Hindu groups like Bajrang Dal and his art works vandalized. The leadership of Shiv Sena endorsed the attack. Twenty-six Bajrang Dal activists were arrested by the police. Protests also led to the closure of an exhibition in London, England.
In February 2006, Husain was charged with “hurting sentiments of people” because of his paintings. A series of cases were brought against him and a court case related to the alleged obscene depiction of Hindu goddesses in issuing a non-bailable warrant against Husain after he failed to respond to summons. There were also reportedly death threats. The artist left the country stating that “matters are so legally complicated that I have been advised not to return home.” Now living in Dubai and London, he continues to stay away from India, but has expressed a strong desire to return, despite fears that he may be arrested and tortured in connection with these cases.
The artistic community welcomed the Delhi High Court recent ruling that dismissed three criminal cases against Husain for the supposed crime of obscenity. The court has upheld the right to artistic creation and decisively quashed efforts at censorship. The court has importantly, held that there was no intent on the part of the artist to cause offence. Obscenity in this reading is in the eyes of the viewer. And a difference in perspective cannot be the basis of criminal charges.
I have been photographing Husain and his work for many years, I feel that Husain’s art is a part of a longstanding evolving tradition of Indian iconography and my photography work creates a dialogue with him and his work which extends to the audience.
Curators: Pedro Meyer and Francisco Mata
Photographers: Antonio Turok, Eniac Martinez, Enrique Villaseor, Fernando Montiel Klint, Francisco Mata, Gerardo Montiel Klint, Jos Hernandez-Claire, Kenia Nrez, Nadia Baram, Patricia Aridjis, Pedro Meyer, Raul Ortega, Yolande Andrade.
Freedom – of course, this term means so many different things to so many different people around the world. For some, freedom is simply being able to have shelter or something to eat, not to mention being free from disease. For others, freedom means having the opportunity to be creative. For some, it means having freedom from economic burdens.
For others, freedom is sought from oppressive governments. For others, from oppressive marriages. For many, it is about the freedom to have gainful employment, and then for others it is being able to dream and fly off into distant worlds. To be free from nightmares, or to be free to pursue your sexuality. In the end, freedom means so many things to so many different people around the globe that we will never be able to come up with one single definition of what freedom stands for.
This exhibition, started out with the premise of free choice for each artist to express their understanding of freedom according to his or her own imagination. There is no Mexican point-of-view for the word freedom in this collection, other than the fact that all the photographers are from Mexico. If anything, our choices and ideas about freedom are in reality as varied as the diversity of notions expressed in the word itself.
Rather than propose a detailed explanation of what the photographer intended to show in each photograph, we thought that the best option would be to leave individual interpretations up to each individual person looking at the image. You can be sure that there is no wrong or right way to interpret these pictures. After all, who is to say that your interpretation – even if at variance with what the author intended – is not as valid as that of the author?
All that matters is that you see yourself represented in these images, with your own ideas of freedom.
Freedom is a way of life for the Shanghainese – a proud, outgoing, opinionated and bold lot who live life out in the streets, not to mention in their pajamas. While these pictures represent only a glimpse into what I feel is an authentic slice of Shanghai, it is important to point out that this pajama party is quickly coming to end.
The longtang of Shanghai, considered by many Chinese as being “backwards”, are quickly disappearing, thanks in part to reckless land development and the desire to flatten blocks of centuries-old neighbourhood housing to build modern office and residential towers – monuments to the “progress” and “forward thinking” of the new republic.
“It-sà-rá” = FREEDOM
This is the first part of a long-term project called ‘Human Negotiations’, currently being photographed in three Asian countries. As an outsider, I am interested in getting a glimpse into the lives of young women who, by their own will, have chosen prostitution as a means of living. While the path that leads them to prostitution may differ, they all do share some common ground.
One admits that it is easier to make some “quick” money than it is to work in a factory. Others say it is “cool to be able to hang out in the bars and see men that I’d never meet if I stayed at home.” Another said, “I will always come back here… even though I am supported by a foreign boyfriend, most people around me understand where I am from. It is a community.” About 70 percent of Thai women have worked in prostitution.
* None of the girls photographed has been forced into the profession, nor do any of them work in an illegal environment.
Love Has No Law
Being a photographer is a choice, a strength, and a nourishment. When I photograph, I express my feelings with passion and freedom; my heart is open to any experiences. I like thinking of photography as a spiritual path to accept the pains and the bitterness of life, a frame for a better understanding of time. It is also the promise of an infinite joy to exchange emotions with the viewer and to simply share my passion. My photographs explore the traces of humanity and the nuances of light, to extract the magical presence of beauty.
I always begin a body of work by intuition, following my sensations. I look and measure the meanings of reality and, like in a daydream, shift into a personal and poetic world. Then I search for powerful details like reflections, eyes, windows, horizons. I work mostly in black and white with a traditional camera, because it is important for me to be involved in every part of the process of creating a photograph. I often use external filters or masks that I place between me and what I see, which are a protection and a confrontation at the same time.
I am currently working on how to photograph the diversity of attraction and one’s identity. With “Love has no law”, I question what makes us human, behind the layers of interpretations and perceptions. My profound passion for theatre explains why I choose mannequins: they can be directed like actors on a stage; they are the representation of severity and seduction, of humanity and dehumanisation. These portraits tell the story of freedom, respect and love.
« We don’t see things as they are.
We see things as we are »
The Day I Started Collecting Doors Was When I Lost My Feet
My land – the place where I live – is widely known as a summer-time leisure paradise, but it also has one of the biggest transgender community in Europe. I’ve focused my attention on them, following an emotional sequence comprising of portraits and details of the country. I lost myself between their lives and these streets.
I try to transcend standard photographic labels – in my pictures, there is something private and intimate which everyone can relate to their own background. However, there are always familiar and destabalising elements at the same time. On one side, there are spaces, places and deserted buildings as if from a ghost town or from a movie set. On the hand, there are faces, looks and human presence. It’s the vision of a pair of binoculars – it lets the viewers make their own personal sequences without a fixed shape, based on their own life experiences.
I like to speak with the people I take pictures of, talking to them about their thoughts and about the place they live in. Even if it is only for a short time, I have shared with them. Taking pictures is really the last step, albeit the most important one.
I’m not a front line photographer. I try to follow the traditions of Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans or Paul Strand, through American New Topographers (Rochester 1975), to today’s Alec Soth, Richard Renaldi or Mark Power. I have a great interest in people and lands, and the connections between them. My photography is more introspective, and I try to delete the space between the environment around me and myself.
Mui and Pha
Mui, a Buddhist, has been living homeless for the last five years on the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam, with her five-year-old son, Pha. Although Mui has embraced her current living conditions, they have had to fend for themselves mostly because both of her previous husbands are no longer around, and in Vietnam, a woman’s livelihood often depends on her husband. The boy’s father died of a heroin overdose around the time he was born, and Mui’s second husband was recently put in a mental institution. They sleep on straw mats on the ground, and scavenge through garbage for their food. Even though they face many challenges daily, they are able to find happiness in their simple affection for each other.
During my time with Mui and Pha, I was touched by the connection between them and the intimacy of care that held their lives together. I wanted my images to reflect this intimacy, and mirror my own internalised reaction to their relationship. All too often the modern connotations of poverty and homelessness is that of desperation and lacking. However, with Mui and Pha, they relationship redefines this model of thought and shows that people with few possessions can find joy in the simple aspects of their lives.