An exhibition of the work of 15 of the country’s most distinguished artists took place at the Clifton Art Gallery recently. It was a rare opportunity to view the work of these fine pioneers of art. The artist’s whose artworks were displayed were Ahmed Parvez, Anwar Jalal Shemza, Bashir Mirza, Colin David, Ghulam Rasul, Gulgee, Iqbal Hussain, Jamil Naqsh, Khalid Saeed Butt, Mansur Aye, Mudassar Manzoor, Najmi Sura, Sadequain, Saeed Akhtar and Waseem Ahmed. Each artist’s work held the attention of the viewer.
The youngest artist in the group was Mudassar Manzoor, whose work is appreciated internationally. He graduated with distinction from the National College of Arts (NCA) in 2005 and participated in group exhibitions at home and in selected international events, and shows his work in solo exhibitions at home and overseas.
Bashir Mirza opened the first art gallery in Karachi in the 60s. In 1966 he exhibited a collection of stark drawings and non-figurative paintings in Karachi, expressing his horror of war and its futility. One was excited by the strength of the artist’s
work – which was a collection fit for a museum, had there been one to house important artwork in Pakistan at that time. The work of Colin David, who had his first solo exhibition in Karachi in 1970, continues to be amongst the most popular with collectors in Pakistan.
Sadequain and Gulgee were the two outstanding artists of the 70s whose works are internationally acclaimed and retain their admiration in art circles today.
Lahore based artists, Khalid Saeed Butt, Saeed Akhtar, Iqbal Hussain and Waseem Ahmed, are still producing singular works of art.
The work of Iqbal Hussain is focused on the area he grew up in – the Heera Mandi area of Lahore. He paints the lives of the inhabitants with sympathy and understanding, sharing his knowledge with art patrons around the world. He is one of the most well-known artists of the country, with interviews published in newspapers of numerous countries.
Saeed Akhtar in recent years has been much acclaimed for his dazzling Buraq series, paintings that combine brilliant draughtsmanship with fantasy. He is the recipient of many awards and honours and has represented Pakistan in numerous exhibitions internationally. Saeed Akhtar is Pakistan’s foremost portrait painter credited with over 1,000 portraits of the Quaid-i-Azam.
Khalid Saeed Butt has a unique style of miniature painting which has earned him praise and admiration throughout his career. Every painting tells a story, which captures the imagination of the viewer. He creates atmosphere with the settings of his paintings, with fairy tale landscapes and exotic figures.
Waseem Ahmed is one of Pakistan’s most renowned contemporary miniaturists. In his art he successfully fuses myriad elements, melding traditional aesthetics with contemporary views. While often eschewing elements of colour Ahmed’s handling of various media portrays masterful control. Details in his work are exquisite; immaculate linear skills are rendered with a squirrel hair brush or pen.
Also included in the show is the work of Najmi Sura, whose work was exhibited at the Albemarle Gallery London to acclaim in 2016, and Mansur Aye, whose signature work showed a single, mysterious female.
Ahmed Parvez was one of the country’s earliest contemporary painters. He lived for several years in London, returning to Pakistan in the 60s. In Pakistan his work excited admiration; he was primarily a colourist with a very personal, vibrant explosive approach. In all his work the lyrical, linear beauty took it far beyond the decorative. During his lifetime Parvez sold a great deal of his work but never held on to money or possession. He was awarded the President’s Medal for Pride of Performance in 1978, and died in Karachi a year later.
The art of Sadequain is now exhibited in the State Bank Museum, and it is a wondrous sight. It is the only place in the country where one can view the great artist’s work well displayed, and details of his life and work are also shown. This museum is a must for all art lovers.
Anwar Jalal Shemza was one of the first contemporary painters in Pakistan, and he was one of the leading ‘Modern Art Circle’ painters in Lahore in the 60s. Shemza moved to England, where he taught art and showed his work in exhibitions. In 1985, after his death, his work was exhibited in Pakistan.
Studying the paintings displayed, one learnt a great deal from the artist’s use of the media, the skilled diversity of textures and their signature styles – an ideal opportunity to the advantage of students of art. •