By Indo-Asian News Service
For Indians unfamiliar with the fraternity of artists in Pakistan, master modernist Jamil Naqsh can be best described as Pakistan’s M.F. Husain - a man who lives by his art and on his own terms.
India-born Naqsh, Pakistan’s leading modern artist, who leads a reclusive life in London, will host his first-ever solo show in the capital Sep 15 at the Alliance Francaise - exhibiting a cache of 40 paintings.
The artist’s ties with India are unbreakable. “I always dreamt of being in Shantiniketan,” Naqsh told IANS in an email interview.
Naqsh was a boy when he left Kirana on the banks of the river Yamuna near Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, where he was born in 1938.
But his early boyhood memories of Kirana, art analysts believe, never deserted him. It seeped into his work, imbuing them with nostalgia and a certain amount of winsome poignancy though he denies that childhood had a part to play.
“Childhood was nothing; I have my own genetic order. I am doing what I am programmed to do and think,” he said.
Naqsh relates to the Kirana of his childhood on a personal level.
“For me, my father and my house in Kirana were the nucleus of my life and keeps on spreading. I regret that I did not get a chance to look after him and make him proud of myself. And I worked even harder and was more careful with my life because of the insecurity,” he said.
Naqsh was a free spirit - who formed definite opinions about life and art early in life. In his early teens, he travelled to Chittagong, Kolkata and Colombo and picked up a medley of influences along the way that had a profound impression on his art.
As a student at the Mayo School of Art in 1953, he trained in modern art but was keen to learn the subtle dexterity and intricate craft of Indian miniature paintings.
“The principal of Mayo School of Art, Spading Field, introduced me to Ustad Mohammed Sharif as a very special student. And gave me a two-year scholarship.
“Ustad Sharif was a very fine miniaturist, very dedicated and down-to-earth. He taught me all the techniques of miniatures and secrets on oath too. He tried to groom me to take his place,” Naqsh recalled.
Contrary to notions held by a section of art researchers and critics, Naqsh did not learn Mughal miniatures. “I learnt only Indian miniature paintings. I was interested in the Jain art of Rajasthan, especially the Bundi School,” the artist said.
His brush with Indian miniatures strengthened his ties with his parent country and his love for the genre. “There will always be a market for Indian miniatures and this country will always have miniature artists, unlike several countries where the art of painting miniatures is disappearing,” Naqsh said.
The media-shy artist, whose works have been panned in his home country, says he is never alone. His art and companion keep him company.
“I am never alone. My companion, Najmi Sura, is always with me and I have the company of great painters and great men of the past and present. Even I know that they are going to prove the big bang. And everybody has limited time. I cannot waste my time; I am not a recluse,” the artist said.
Naqsh paints the people he loves and his intimate thoughts and convictions. Women, pigeons and sometimes horses and children recur in his works. Critics say Najmi Sura inspires the women on his canvases.
Naqsh is also an accomplished calligrapher - an art that he picked up as a boy. The genre influenced his “Modern Manuscripts Series”, in which he redefined mass as a complex linear labyrinth. The artist, since his early days, was obsessed with lines.
Naqsh likes to describe himself as a painter who is rooted in the 21st century. “I am neither conceptualist or modern. The conceptualists exist everywhere and in every time, even when they broke the nose of Michealangelo’s sculpture. The problem is that Marcel Duchamp, the French surrealist painter, should have given a name to this type of activity. Art is art without another name - only it’s good or bad.”
The artist’s message to the burgeoning population of contemporary artists in India and Pakistan is simple.
“Be proud that we have such a rich past which is very different from other civilisations. And we all have our own pasts of the collective past.”