IQRA! Read!

In the name of the Lord and Cherisher, Who created

Created Man, out of mere clot congealed blood.

Proclaim! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful,

He Who taught (the use of) the Pen,

Taught man that which he knew not.”

(Surah Al-‘Alaq: verses 1-5)

Iqra’ is a 2013 painting by distinguished contemporary artist Husin Hourmain, who has recently garnered great acclaim for his progressive calligraphic works. Standing at 8 feet tall and 6 feet wide, the surface of the canvas is covered in Husin’s signature hyper-detailed calligraphic style with numerous tiny Arabic alphabets, which come together to form the Arabic word, “Iqra”.

“Iqra”, which translates into “Read”, was the first word uttered by the angel Gabriel (Jibril) to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) upon the revelation of Islam in the cave of Hiraa near Mecca. When the angel recited Allah’s words and said, “Recite to people in the name of your Lord”, the Prophet anxiously replied “I am not a reciter”, inferring he felt that he lacked the ability for this task. Gabriel hugged him tightly, released him from the hug and repeated the revelation. The refusal and embrace occurred thrice, each time Gabriel’s hug becoming stronger to the point of the Prophet’s exhaustion, indicating that the Prophet had no option but to submit to the directive. After the third hug, the Prophet yielded and Gabriel completed the revelation, marking the beginning of the revelation of the Quran.

It is illuminating that the first word delivered was the command to read and recite, underlining the importance of acquiring knowledge in Islam. A strong claim, “Iqra” has had a profound effect on devout Muslim Husin, who has been ruminating on the meaning of this term since working on his acclaimed series Awal Hurouf, Asal Hurouf. After careful study and consideration the artist concluded the concept of Iqra’ as divulged to the Prophet (PBUH) is more expansive than just the act of reading and reciting. To Husin’s understanding, it actually encompasses the intellectual process garnering knowledge entails, that is, to understand the task at hand and immerse oneself in it so as to be able to progress further in life, be it as a Muslim, a human being or an artist.

The idea of seeking knowledge to further himself as an artist ties in neatly with Husin’s understanding of the term “Iqra”, for without knowledge he feels he would be incapable of producing work that resonates with depth and quality. Indeed the audience can relate this new painting to his 2008 series Zero to Something, Zero to Nothing that was centered on the various phases of life. Husin revealed an interesting parallel between himself and Jackson Pollock in terms of technique when discussing the production of this early series by describing his predilection for painting whilst engaged in animated motion, leading to exceedingly energetic mark making. An almost Sufis tic hint of fatalism pervades when painting in such an expressive manner, mirroring Husin’s  comment, “Life cannot be controlled, you can plan, but it’s not your decision how it turns out.”

Iqra’ marks a progression forward for abstract expressionist devotee Husin technically with a greater refinement than before. An intensely layered acrylic painting, Husin confidently marries the monochromatic colour palette he mastered during his  Zero to Something, Zero to Nothing phase with controlled infusions of vibrant colour. Shades of yellow in mustard and canary produce a glowing effect that seems to emerge from behind the letters themselves,  fitting in neatly with the notion that “Iqra” in itself is an illuminating and revealing statement.

It is interesting to note that the work immediately preceding Iqra’, Yasin, was created by Husin as a tribute to his late father, as the artist states this new painting speaks about him as a father to his four children. Fitting in neatly with the concept of seeking knowledge and progressing in life, the development of content via two crucial Islamic terms provides the viewer with a personal insight into the quiet depths that resonate within Husin. The ability Husin possesses to connect the two main aspects of his identity, as a Muslim and as an artist, through the dedicated exploration of his craft mark him as a highly relatable artist in secular Islamic Malaysia.

written by Zena Khan

artist             : Husin Hourmain

type                : acrylic on canvas

dimension    : 244 x 183 cm

price               : RM 35, 000.00


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