A painter that brushed away dictatorship
ISLAMABAD: The market for art has degenerated, said artist, curator and art critic Quddus Mirza who was delivering a talk at the Satrang gallery here on Wednesday.
The speaker was critical of commercial art and described it as prostitution. Students from both private and public schools, including the National College of Arts (NCA) Rawalpindi, faculty and some established and practicing artists sat on chairs and on the marble floor of the gallery hanging on to every word Quddus Mirza uttered, from his painting experiences, under dictatorial regime of Gen Ziaul Haq and with the freedom he enjoyed with the brush later.
“Somebody asked me a question that what is the difference between commercial art and non-commercial art? I said it is difference between a married woman and sex worker. So the market has generated many prostitutes and many housewives,” the art critic explained to his listeners.
Associate professor at the National College of Art (NCA) Lahore Quddus Mirza discussed his unique career in the art world, and the state of the current art market.
He was trained as a painter from NCA, Lahore and Royal College of Art, London. Quddus Mirza had exhibited in numerous international and national shows. He is the co-author of the book “50 Years of Visual Arts in Pakistan” and has written extensively on Pakistani art in various international publications.
He was critical of how some talented painters and quality art was taking a toll because of excessive commercialism.
The talk drifted to his life experiences and the influences and the circumstances under which he had painted.
In not so many words Quddus Mirza implied how he was reluctant to show his work fearing controversy during Ziaul Haq’s eleven years of dictatorship.
“I had been afraid to show it because I had not seen such work in the local art world before. And it was not until one of my friends saw my miniature work with the faceless and distorted face of an emperor,” said Quddus Mirza explaining how it encouraged him to paint what he felt in his heart and enabled him to experiment in the genre.
Speaking about the significance of miniature paintings, Quddus Mirza told his listeners why he chose the intricate and detailed field of art.
“Miniature is about the power and system of power. It has very decorative elements, yet it has a meaning and it has a message that it was made for a certain class. And I picked up a certain content how the impact of power was the same and how it did not make a difference on who the rulers were and who ruled over common people,” the art critic explained.
Admiring some of the works hung on the wall, the speaker delved deeper into the promotion of calligraphic paintings. He explained how calligraphic paintings/art had found patronage during Ziaul Haq’s rule.
He elaborated how love and particularly death played an important role in peoples’ lives, surrounding them in the present times, had also influenced his works. The speaker also implied how his works were also influenced by immense violence in Islamic history and in other religions as well. —Jamal Shahid