IAAC Exhibition of Contemporary Indian Art of the Diaspora 2011   

Mumtaz Hussain
Mumtaz Hussain



Artist Statement

Strangely, even as a canvas artist, I have never thought 'stills'. I could never capture a moment as an immovable element in time, without an evolving context. I have always believed that whatever my work, it stemmed from the moving image. Whether it is an attempt at expressing my artistic world view through calligraphy or another visual, it has always been motivated by a stream of images, of which one 'stills' the essence of the expressive moment as I reproduce it on canvas.

Essentially, the graduation from painting to film has just been a logical and progressive extension of my work. I think I matured into film, just as a walk matures into the ability to run. My training as an artist has served my endeavor as a filmmaker immensely - it has offered me the scope to unravel the various elements of a single frame into the many that comprise it. The captured moment, so to speak, on canvas, now finds a moving context as well as real progression in film; just the opposite of what I did on canvas. I, now, 'unfreeze' the moment and allow it to breathe as a moving image. That is why symbolism remains an intrinsic and sub-textual motif in my film work.


Mumtaz Hussain's recent paintings continue the artist's engagement with language and history. The relationship of hieroglyphs and ancient sculpture in his recent series The Soul of Civilization contrasts with the calligraphic Modern Mystic series that invoked the Islamic tradition of poetry as visual expression; the new paintings are an attempt to make direct pictorial statements. The esoteric has given way to a universal communication. Ironically, Hussain has had to reach for one of the earliest civilizations, that of the Indus Valley, for inspiration to make paintings that are both contemporary and immediate

Fusion is the best way to describe Mumtaz Hussain's work, which includes elements from his native country of Pakistan, as well as his current life in New York. His work blends European and American influences, and seeks to reflect its own new culture which struggles with and at the same time exalts visually rich and beautiful ancient art. Springing from his own South Asian heritage, Hussain's work spans centuries of evolution, from ancient archaeology to traditional South Asian calligraphy to modern mixed media. It straddles the cultural divide that separates the East from the West by drawing inspiration from artistic traditions of his homeland as well as Cubism and Impressionism in particular and a synthesis of European and American modernism in general

Born and educated in Jhang, the center of Sufi culture in Pakistan, and immersed in Sufi culture during his childhood, Hussain's early artistic education was inspired by the medieval Indian figurative artistic tradition. In 1981, Hussain accepted admission into the prestigious National College of Arts (NCA) in Lahore, Pakistan's premier art school, Among other accolades, Hussain won the National Poster Competition, decorate the Sheikh Zaid bin Sultan Palace, an architectural landmark in Karachi.

In 1987, Hussain left Pakistan for London to study European art forms. A year later, in 1988, he arrived in New York to further pursue his education by studying graphic design at SVA (School of Visual Art). Additionally, Hussain studied figure drawing and painting at the Art Students League of New York.

In addition to his devotion to the fine arts, Hussain has served as an Art Director for Simon & Schuster, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren. Hussain continues to paint, make films, and write prolifically. His works have been feature regularly in museums, universities and international art galleries.

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