Painting a poetic expression
By: Marjorie Husain
Revealed in the luminous paintings of Abrar Ahmed exhibited at the Ocean Gallery, Karachi, is the artist’s awareness of the configuration of art making and the links of tradition with the merging of contemporary aesthetics. The artist’s enjoyment of rich colouration employed with lush brushstrokes creates a form of narrative abstraction that focuses on the languorous, bejewelled form that dominates the composition.
The layered space surrounding the subject is balanced with symbols of rhythm and nature inducted with contemporary fusion into myriad classic and folk art designs. Articulating a personal viewpoint of the loosening strands of time-honoured customs, with bordered designs that frame the work, the artist is able to introduce familiar motifs in his work with an incisive presence.
A self-taught artist in the tradition of Sadequain and Gulgee, Ahmed has been showing his work in solo exhibitions since 1994, and for the last decade his work has been well received in international group shows, as well as a two artist exhibition mounted at the Light Gallery, London in 2007.
Viewing his work in exhibition one shares the enjoyment and excitement he exudes through his use of colour. Yet he is equally at ease in collections that eschew colour to focus on purity of line as seen in drawings exhibited earlier this year. The decorative detail worked with ink on paper and canvas allowed one to fully absorb the exquisite quality of the artist’s linear work.
In the current collection, the artist appears to pay homage to the subtle narrative of traditional miniature schools and to the reaffirmation found in the modern mastery of A.R.Chughtai. At the same time one is aware of Ahmed’s signature work; the ingenious variation emerging from independent thought that transcends formulas. He takes inspiration from Urdu ghazals, translating the flow of language into the solitary form clothed in textured drapery and dazzling with luminescent skin tones.
Art in Pakistan is an exciting, evolving artistic activity. Though there has been a prolific growth since the 1960s, with art schools and galleries operative throughout the country, art is a highly individual expression. An exemplary aesthetic example was set for future generations by the pioneers of modern art who worked for the pure joy of creativity. They set new boundaries for art expression and though in earlier generations there was no tradition of painting with oils, they were experimental in approach and practiced modern movements and methods.
Artists, of the present times are unrestricted in their choice of media or subject. Many opportunities to show their work in art events abroad exist and they are well-versed in movements taking part in other countries. Modern artists today such as Mussarat Arif the talented calligraphist who introduces stunning patterns in her compositions and Ahmed, who strives to interpret the symbolic motifs of a past tradition, juxtaposed with areas of rich colouration are successful in endowing their work with an idiomatic approach that is cosmopolitan.
Today, the diversification of expression confirms the concept of the language of art as international phenomena. Ahmed is a painter who does not hold a mirror to past or present times, but by freely fusing contemporary mores with tradition, his work radiates a unique perception that widens painterly observations with the joy of creativity.