Kabir Hussain

Kabir Hussain is an artist who is very much attuned to the environment. Observing it closely, he works from landscape and plants both on a minute and a grand scale. He both draws and makes sculpture in bronze.

Kabir Hussain,Maharashtra
Kabir Hussain, Maharashtra, bronze

Kabir is a man of many experiences. He has travelled widely and crossed cultures in his life. From Pakistan where he was born, to Norfolk where he lives, and London where he works. As an artist-technician, his work appears to be about his own questions about materials and forms. About his physical response as a maker to landscape. Yet, as an artist-poet, it is subtly about the transformations that he is able to effect. Between different kinds of experience. How he brings worlds together and indeed keeps them apart. As an artist working across cultures, his work is literally about roots and stones in the soil. But it helps us to ask much bigger questions about place and identity, about nearness and distance. And the co-existence of humans and nature.

Written by Veronica Sekules, From the Alde Valey catalgue, see below.

Kabir Hussain at Groundwork
Kabit Hussain talking about his work at GroundWork in 2019

Kabir has exhibited in Britain and abroad since 1984. For many years he has worked in London at AB Fine Art Foundry as a master bronze caster. There he has supervised work for many of the best known artists working in Britain today. He studied at Leeds College of Art (1979-80). Then he moved to South Glamorgan Institute of Higher Education, Cardiff (1980-83). Finally he was at Chelsea School of Art (1983-4).

Artist in residence Whitehouse Farm, Suffolk

Kabir Hussain spent a year from 2016-2017 attached to Whitehouse Farm in the Alde Valley, Suffolk. There he was artist in residence at the invitation of Jason Gathorne Hardy, who owns the farm. Jason is himself an artist and has founded the Alde Valley Spring Festival of food, farming, landscape and arts http://www.aldevalleyspringfestival.co.uk/. Below are images of Kabir preparing work for an exhibition opening there in June 2017. His work was based on an intense study of a single field over the year. 

Kabir Hussain catalogue cover Alde Valley

From the project book:

Kabir Hussain began this project by considering his role as an artist. Pitted directly against nature, what should he do? Where was his contribution to be? Question after question arose as he surveyed the fields, looking around, thinking, walking, searching. Over time, he increased the intensity of his responses, visiting the same chosen field regularly, making drawings, taking photographs. He became immersed, involved, thoroughly part of the life of the field. Feeling that at last, he was capturing its energy.

Kabir Hussain sugar beet
The field grew sugar-beet, which Kabir described as emerging ‘like huge beasts, monsters disturbing the soil’ He cast them in bronze, to become the centrepiece of his art installation.

Kabir has never been one to rush into quick effects and solutions. He took time to become familiar with his subject, exploring its properties and potential as the seasons deepened and changed. The beets he transformed, by casting them in bronze in various states, with and without leaves; also casting the depressions they had left in the soil as they were pulled. They appeared as part of a new story, as hybrid creatures no longer vegetable, more like animals, like limbs.

Kabir Hussain sugar beets cast
Kabir Hussain, cast and coloured bronze sugar beets

He explored them as entirely new objects in his chosen medium. Through mass, cast with their leaves stripped off, they gained presence. By balancing different sizes alongside each other they developed family- like relationships. And then he used colour. Patinated black, white, or milky white and bronze coloured, they began to mirror the diversity of different cultures.

Above text, extracts by Veronica Sekules, Alde Valley Spring Festival catalogue, 2017

Kabir Hussain Sugar Beet bronze
Kabir Hussain Sugar Beet bronze, from White House Farm residency

Landscape bronzes

Kabir’s responses to landscape are both physical and cultural. They concern both his relationships to the earth and his perceptions of time. He makes extraordinarlily delicate bronze casts of ground and landscape. Some are small enough to hold in the hand, some of which are planar and map-like. Others describing dramatic or mountainous features, are evocative of the slow unfolding drama of geology, movement and environmental change.

He compares the process of heating bronze as a kind of ‘speeding up of the ageing process’. He links it to the changes we are currently experiencing. His aim is modestly descriptive. To inform the viewer about what is happening and record it. But the result is tender and poetic. For him it is rich in memories and associations. There are also for us, implications for how we might pay closer attention to the details of what we experience.

Kabir Hussain Norfolk, 2008, Bronze, 114 x 126 x 3cm

This Norfolk landscape is his own masterpiece – as he says, equivalent almost to a feature-length movie. It is made from different elements which go back together. The cuts echo the river that goes through the landscape.. This substantial work was first shown as part of the artist’s ‘Mapping Norfolk’ project. This was shown at the Sainsbury Centre in 2008. It was shown again at GroundWork as part of Theories of the Earth in 2018.

Walnut works

Recently, together with his wife Vicky, he has established Walnut Works. This is a foundry in Suffolk to facilitate artists to realise their sculpture. Currently (2020) Kabir is artist in residence at Cable Street Community Garden, London E1

Kabir Hussain Walnut works