In many of his paintings Husain demonstrates his inclination towards portraying faceless and usually veiled women, such as those in this painting from the early 1960s. This method of abstract portraiture likely results from Husain's childhood, for the artist grew up in a Muslim household, 'where the feminine presence alternates between the secretive and the visible.' (Yashodhara Dalmia, The Making of Modern Indian Art: The Progressives, 2001, p. 1).
This painting symbolically juxtaposes the two women with a lamp, a symbol frequently found in Husain's works. 'The blue lamp echoes in miniature the female form; its wick bursts into black rays, suggesting aroused sexual emotion. Between the darkened face and the black wick a quiet tension prevails and the surrounding violet night dully vibrates with the charged emotion.' (E. Alkazi, M. F. Husain, The Modern Artist and Tradition, p. 11). Moreover, the light that emanates from within the lamp is reminiscent of a spider's multi legged-form, believed to represent a protective feminine presence, and alluding to Husain's iconic painting Between the Spider and the Lamp (1956).
This spider-like design in the lamp is mirrored by the circular symbol on the raised palm of the standing nude and a spiral at the upper edge of the painting. ‘Husain’s metaphor is rich and of great expressiveness. It brings a wide sweep to his way of looking at things, to his many approaches to reality. His symbols and represented objects are often startling in juxtaposition because they are drawn from such far reaches of artistic memory. Dark, intuitive sometimes traditional symbols are cast within contemporary design and given meanings that seem valid for this and every other time.’ (Shiv S. Kapur, Husain, Lalit Kala Akademi Series, 1961, p. I).
‘Husain’s men and women, outwardly simple and unsophisticated are highly conscious beings. They are conscious of being channels through which life runs its course... Even in groups sitting or standing together these men and women are supremely solitary. They do not communicate with each other. They remain locked in a binding compassion, in a unity of colour and composition divided by wondrously understanding line. Husain does not only represent life, he annotates it, and the postulate of that annotation is the utter marvel of it all.’ (ibid. p. v).
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