Ajmal Husain remembered
Last week, renowned artist Ajmal Husain, the son of a former editor of Dawn Altaf Husain, passed away in Karachi. He started his career as Dawn’s political cartoonist. He was the editor of The Illustrated Weekly of Pakistan in the 1950s. He also held the post of editor Sunday Magazine Dawn for a while. As an artist, in his early days he was inspired by the French impressionists. Later on, he diversified his style and experimented with different techniques.
Talking to Dawn art critic Marjorie Husain said, “Ajmal Husain was the oldest practising artist. He was 88 and still working, still painting. He had an exhibition planned for summer in Islamabad. But something happened that affected his voice and made him speak in whispers.
“When partition happened, Ajmal was the cartoonist for Dawn. Then he went to the US for further education. He was the first Pakistani to have a solo exhibition in Germany (1952). He liked to experiment in art. He made abstract paintings and then shifted to portraiture; you can’t pin him down. His last retro took place in 2010 at the Goethe Institut. He had studios in London, Paris and Karachi and was enthusiastic about art,” said Ms Husain. Ajmal Husain’s daughter Samira Husain said, “I’m the luckiest person in the world. He was a compassionate and creative person. We brought a book in December, an autobiography of his life and work, but couldn’t launch it. We plan to do that.”
Art critic Nilofur Farrukh said, “I met him a few times after he returned to Pakistan from Paris. In fact, I invited him to Art Moments, the interviews I did for T2F. I think his contribution was critical in the early years when he used his international contacts to give visibility to the country’s nascent art scene. As an artist he had diverse styles and in the 90s Ali Imam hosted a big show, a sort of retro, and re-introduced him to the Karachi art scene dominated by another generation of artists. He was a gentle soul and it was always interesting to learn about Pakistan in the 1940s and 50s from him.”
Artist and curator Shakira Masood said, “He was a very fine artist. He did a lot of designing for carpet weaving. He was a quality painter as well and dabbled in different genres. He was living in Paris, because of which he didn’t get his due here.”
Artist Tanweer Farooqi echoed the same feeling that Ajmal Husain wasn’t given his due since he lived abroad. He added, “He experimented with all kinds of isms and used vibrant colours. Be it modernistic trends or figurative art, he did it all. He even did surrealist work.”