As the nation fell speechless a few days ago, waking up to the blood-curdling details of how a little girl was abducted, held captive, raped and eventually murdered in Kathua, Shiraz Hussain, a 32-year-old artist from Delhi let his brush do the talking.
“I was actually designing a book cover when I was struck by this crushing helplessness. On the one hand was this child whom we failed as a state and a people. Then there are those who want to milk political points by shielding the accused. I am an artist. What can I do to save those who cannot be saved in the country?” Hussain laments.
He states that his piece is meant to show the 'vicious circle' that politicians and the 'protectors of power' in the country create and how it is the innocent, in the case, the 8-yar-old victim, who often take the fall for a country's internal crisis.
A former Assistant Professor at Jamia Millia Islamia University, Hussain is a proponent of resistance art, a genre that uses art as an expression of dissent and protest.
“Through my work, I have tried to reflect the chaotic times that we live in. I could have chosen to draw flowers and pretty faces that please people. But I chose to speak about the things that would make them uncomfortable, make them stir, make them question,” the artist asserts.
Here is a look at the artist’s studio and some of his works.
Shiraz Hussain is a resistance artist who believes art needs to make people uncomfortable and question the status quo. | (Image: News18/Rakhi Bose)
He runs an initiative called 'Khwaab Tanha Collective' which recreates portraits of veteran Urdu poets and writers for contemporary consumers. |Posters of John Elia and Mirza Ghalib | (Image: News18/ Rakhi Bose)
"In this rendition of Faiz Ahmad Faiz (left), you can see that thorns grow out of Faiz's mouth because he speaks the truth. But flowers also grow on the thorns as truth is beautiful", says Hussain| (Image: News18/Rakhi Bose)[/caption]
Hussain feels that art can fill in the gaps between language| Image: a poster of Hindi poet and writer Gajanan Madhav Muktiodh (Image: News18/Rakhi Bose)
He has now started drawing Hindi poets such as Muktiodh and Paash too | A poster of Hindi poet Paash (Image: News18/Rakhi Bose)
From postcards to t-shirts, coffee mugs and even watch-dials, Hussain puts his art on everything to make it more accessible to common people | (Image: News18/ Rakhi Bose)
"The west respects its literary stalwarts. Look at how they celebrate Shakespeare, Keats. Why can't we take pride in our stalwarts too?" Hussain asked. (Image: News18/ Rakhi Bose)
Hussain frequently mixes elements of pop iconography to make his point. an example is this poster of Sadat Hassan Manto as Al Pacino from the cult Hollywood classic 'Scarface'| (Image: News18/ Rakhi Bose)
A portion of the artist's living room wall | (Image: New18/Rakhi Bose)
"Art was not just meant to decorate the walls of the rich. It needs to speak to people about things that matter. Not everything can be grey. Sometimes, people need to take a stand. If they can't, then art needs to help them take it," Hussain said, referring again to the Kathua case. (Image: News18/Rakhi Bose)
The artist also works on improving the representation of women in previous Urdu poetic and artistic traditions and also popularize female writers in other languages | Seen here is a mug printed with an illustration of Punjabi poetess Amrita Pritam | (Image: News18/Rakhi Bose)
His work tries to glorify them as women of substance and intellect rather than paint them in romanticized notions of antiquated femininity that were earlier the norm. | (Image: News18/ Rakhi Bose)
"Symbols are very powerful in our world. Today when it is getting harder to talk about difficult truths, art needs to take the charge of becoming the custodian of freedom of speech and try to bring out as many shades of the truth as possible.", the artist concludes. | (Image: News18/ Rakhi Bose)