Wonders of watercolours | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

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Wonders of watercolours

Peerzada Salman

KARACHI: Artists have been using watercolours for centuries. It is one of the oldest mediums of drawing pictures, especially landscapes. This makes the art form all the more difficult to appreciate because it is generally believed that the older the genre, the more scope it has for experimentation. Strangely, innovation in terms of content has proved to be a little difficult for watercolourists.

A three-day exhibition of watercolour and oil-on-canvas paintings by senior artist Zafar Mahmood opened at the Arts Council Karachi on Monday. There are some 80 exhibits on display. While the oil-on-canvas work is no less significant, it is the watercolour pieces that readily catch the viewer’s eye.

Zafar Mahmood is a seasoned painter. He knows well how to bring out the softness of a certain scene and yet hint at the severities that have, or may have, gone into the making of that scene. A view of Bengali pada (boat with huts) is a good example of that. The very first impression that the viewer gets of the painting is that of serenity and a kind of calmness about the huts. But devoting some time to the artwork reveals that it is a picture that tells a story which might not be easily palatable. The boat that the artist has drawn comes across as an integral part of its surroundings, as if it never moves from where it has been placed.

A subject-wise similar piece is titled Huts. Here the colours have become a bit bolder without compromising on the innate softness of the scene. Zafar Mahmood’s storyteller, albeit like an art-house film director from the 1960s, tries to overtake the artist in him. The two Destruction of small ships exhibits more or less touch on the same topic and are nice to look at.

Having said all of this, the artwork that might surprise many viewers with its realism of sorts is an oil-on-canvas piece called Smiling girl. It is pretty as a picture and captures the innocence of the girl with great success.

Prior to the inauguration of the exhibition two books Zafar Mahmood — twenty-five years of an artist and four artists in watercolour were launched.

The ceremony was presided over by writer Fatima Surayya Bajia and the speakers included critic Marjorie Husain and artist Ghalib Baqar, among others.