Medical Art: In Conversation With Dr. Akhter Husain

Dr. Akhter Husain, Head of Orthodontics at Yenepoya University, Mangalore, is the man who pioneered a new niche in the realm of art, namely, medical art. As a part of IGCLA 2018, Dr. Husain showcased his novel creations in Manipal. Each piece was an amalgamation of photography, painting, graphic design and in some cases, even 3D art (the materials used included dental fillings!) The purpose of this genre of fusion art is to introduce the lay public and the healthcare community alike, to the awe-inspiring intricacies and mysteries of the human body. Dr. Husain talked to MTTN about how his journey with medical art came to be:

MTTN: How did you become interested in art and photography amidst a career in dentistry?

Dr. Husain: I have been interested in art since time immemorial, from all the way back in primary school. Photography I discovered in high school when I used to experiment with the primitive cameras that were available at that time. Even then, I wasn’t all that interested in plain, simple photography; I loved playing with black backgrounds and multiple exposures. I have always had a spark of creativity and interest in art, which went on to become a passion. The medium kept evolving – painting, photography, and as computers became popular, graphic art – which had never been explored in Mangalore before. Being awarded in New York for my graphic art, way back when Yahoo was the newest sensation and learning the art wasn’t as easy, gave me the enthusiasm to pursue it further.

As a young student, I had dreams of becoming an artist, but my father wanted me to become a doctor. I ended up doing dentistry and then specializing in orthodontics, which deals with the aesthetics of smiles…which is a kind of art in itself. It was a lucky combination which has turned out well for me.

MTTN: How do you come up with ideas for your artwork? What’s your process?

Dr. Husain: Coming up with ideas is easy. I focus on a body part, say, a finger, and I try to think creatively about it. Fingerprints… identity and evolution. The angle between the nail plate and nail fold, which changes in several diseases… a window into serious processes occurring in the body. These are things I thought of on the spot. I find that mornings are when I am in my most “creatogenic” mood, as I like to call it. I come up with my best ideas at that time. I also keep a journal with me at all times. It’s not too difficult to come up with ideas. The tricky part is capturing them and transforming them into a piece of art. To do that, first I paint. Then I scan it, covert it digitally and add things to it on my computer.

MTTN: Has your view of the world changed after taking up art? Do you believe anyone can be an artist?

Dr. Husain: It is your view of the world that changes first. A changed perspective and some creativity are needed to make art. And yes, absolutely. I believe that anyone can be an artist. Creativity is a trait that everyone possesses. It’s just that not all people use it to make art. There can be many reasons for that – fear of failure, discouragement from artistic pursuits in childhood, or something as simple as getting too absorbed in studies or work. I always say that creativity is like an app that can be installed in every phone. It’s just that not everyone feels the need to install and use it. The choice, however, is always there!

Interviewed by Niharika Dixit
Photographed by Nithin Davuluri

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