Ancestral House in Kairana, UP, India

Born in Kairana, UP, in 1939, Jamil Naqsh grew up in a home where artists, writers, poets, musicians, zamindars and politicians often gathered. His father, a zamindar, wrote books on topics including tib and nafsiyat and illustrated his work in the miniature style. This stimulating environment left an indelible mark on the mind of the young Jamil Naqsh, and encouraged to paint, he soon chose his vocation.

A simple man at heart, Jamil Naqsh lives surrounded by plants and greenery, birds and other pets, paintings and artefacts. A very eastern man, Jamil Naqsh never lost sight of his roots. Sitting on the floor, recounting anecdotes, and relating experiences of his childhood, he is a sensitive man totally absorbed in his work, and yet completely aware of all that is happening in the world of today. Bridging both worlds with no seeming contradiction, he is both a modern expressionist and a traditional miniaturist.

Retiring by nature, Jamil Naqsh found that balancing the demands and pressures of society, and his work, upset his equilibrium, and detracted from his lifeline — his art. He has risen above the dilemma, and made a fundamental decision: painting at times for upto 18 hours a day, Jamil Naqsh has chosen his work. This decision has earned him the reputation of being a recluse — but, recluse or not, he has acquired an important niche in the sphere of art today.

Painting for the past 38 years, Jamil Naqsh has handled a vast variety of themes including land and seascapes. Later, over thp years, he gravitated towards his four preferred themes: prajna paramita, horses, nudes and pigeons. As with most artists, Jamil Naqsh faced by his mortality, sought to leave a mark on posterity by bequeathing to it all that he loves and finds beautiful. So, by ‘capturing’ beauty, and making it his partner through life and the after-life, he has transcended his mortality and finiteness. Being a romantic, he was greatly influenced by the story of the love-stricken Sadhu, who unable to possess the object of his-devotion and love, immortalized her by modeling her as his goddess and taking her away to Tibet with him. Only by making her his ‘devi’ was he able to break free of man-made barriers and restrictions, and possess her for all time. So, too Jamil Naqsh strives to ‘possess’ all that he finds beautiful, and immortalizes what he loves.

Jamil Naqsh & Najmi Sura

His mastery over his art — his detailing with line and texture and composition and forms — and handling of his subject, are all executed as one would a miniature, with meticulous detail, but with no drawing. His training under the tutelage of Ustad Mohammad Sharif, has proved invaluable to his work, and beginning with miniatures, he grew and matured, executing his techniques with greater confidence and skill. He revels in the stretching of all rules — breaking, moulding, reforming and recreating. Some of his works are the result of strict discipline that only this art form can give to the disciple. Yet, always at the beginning is the skill of a miniaturist, and much of his work defies the viewer to pick up a magnifying glass.

Equally comfortable with water arid oils, he uses both mediums with no preference. With supreme control over his medium and the pigments he uses, in the end, neither is the medium of any importance, nor the material used. All that remains is the skill of composition, the form, the line and the texture. His grounding in miniature, and his roots in the sub-continent, his family’s love of the arts have made him what he is today.

Jamil Naqsh’s initial work was with a view to proving his dexterity and skill to the world. As he has matured, and mellowed with age and experience, he finds that he longer needs to prove to others. He is his own judge. Having freed himself from these self-imposed restrictions, he is happier and more daring in his ventures, executing more and more, stretching the limits to the outermost extent, executing his work with great skill. In this context of his career, the current stage of his life is an extremely prolific period. Like one possessed, Jamil Naqsh begins a piece, completes it, and moves on to another without break. He is working in a frenzy, as if racing against time to do and say all that he has to. His eternal quest and diversity will ensure that the evolution will continue as long as he paints.

Like his doves, Jamil Naqsh freely flies the skies — free of man-made norms, following the dictates of his spirit.

TYABA HABIB 1996

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