Jamil Naqsh Pays Homage

to Pablo Picasso

Marjorie Husain, Momart Art Gallery, Karachi 2009

Pakistan’s Modern Master is referred to in India art circles as: `The M.F.Husain of Pakistan’, but unlike the venerable Indian artist, Jamil Naqsh is not to be seen outside his studio. Refusing invitations to attend as guest of honour a recent exhibition of Picasso’s work in Paris, Naqsh declared he was too busy to spare the time. He will not be in Karachi for an exhibition of his work in the series HOMAGE TO PICASSO, scheduled to take place at the Momart gallery, January 2009.
It is almost five decades since he said good-bye to his mentor, the renowned miniaturist Ustad Mohammad Sharif and left Lahore, but the obsessive urgency with which he approaches his work never wanes. Almost all his adult life in changing circumstances have been spent in the limited boundaries of astudio where, aware of time fleeting, he begins his day before dawn. Currently based in London, the artist is buffered by the presence of his muse Najmi Sura, who sees that he is not disturbed by either callers or the telephone where none but his infant grand daughters may hear his voice. He works in peace exploring the multivalent possibilities of his chosen subjects, and in common with the artist he pays tribute to, Jamil Naqsh’soeuvre draws upon the imagination of the viewer.
The four exhibitions in this series taking place in India, Pakistan and the UK, consist of different selections from a very important and extensive body of work that has long germinated in his mind. In recent years he has eschewed putting the date on his work which he regards as an unnecessary detail. *“I strongly feel that I am the same as I was years back. There is no change save for refinement. I have only become more expert in my execution.”
In recent months two selections from the extraordinary collection of drawings and paintings have been shown in Delhi and Mumbai. Another selection has arrived from the artist’s studio inLondon. For exhibition in Karachi, and a fourth exhibition in the series will take place in London around June 2009 In Delhi at the  Nitanjali Art Gallery, in association with the Alliance Francaise, a number of over seventy drawings and twenty paintings were displayed, one painted canvas divided into multiple sections showing variations of an angled face. Viewing this artwork one recalled the élan with which Naqsh in the late nineties exhibited one hundred paintings of a single pigeon that covered one wall of Momart gallery.Working with pencil Naqsh described his work: *“My pencil drawings are a complete painting. There is line, form and shade of light minus colour. Colour does not convey anything for me.”

To an informed audience, viewing the work of Jamil Naqsh initiates selective interpretation. The frames of reference appear from a deeply sourced phenomenon, seemingly freely and dramatically blending allusions to the roots of his artistic heritage, with the refinement of the school of classic miniature art. These elements are interwoven with the immediacy of his times in the form of Cubism and Abstraction. It is magnificent marriage. Manipulating the forms of the bull, the horse, single and entwined forms, and the signature pigeons that hold great meaning for the artist as symbols of his life, portrayed is the tension between sharp angles and voluptuous curves.
In drawing smelding shapes of light and dark, luminosity is created by negative space juxtaposed with the use of graphite as one has seldom seen before; it is an awesome visual experience. A headless form is a recurring image in the oeuvre, the head represented in diverse ways. This innovation began for the artist years ago when he was sculpting a subject life size and returning to the figure after a break, he found the head had broken off from the body and was resting in the lap. Naqsh was so intrigued by this arrangement that he began the series in which the head is symbolic of many emotions. In several instances a bull appears, dominating the surface with a powerful presence. Numerous interpretations may be explored. It is traced back to pre  Indus Valley Civilization, when images of bulls appeared on seals and other artifacts. The animal embodied the male essence of nature, a fertility symbol linked to water as a source of life and associated with the Earth Mother.
Numerous cultures adopted the bull as an emblem admired for its might. In Greek mythology Zeus adopted the form of a white bull to abduct Europa; it is frequently seen in Tantric Tibetan art. Naqsh’s references are wide and personal. Roaming the east in his youth, he studied the historic art of diverse cultures past and present, and the knowledge gained during those formative years appear to be ingrained in the artist’s psyche. One finds the graceful form of a woman merged with that of a horse, a metamorphosis of poetic fluidity. The horse entered the Indus Valley Civilization with the invasion by Aryans in their chariots. It is one of the four sacred animals of the Ashoka pillars, and throughout history it has been a significant symbol of many cultures. In historic China the horse represented masculinity, and as in previous series of work devoted to the sculptor Marino Marini, Naqsh has for many years adapted the swift, beautiful animal to his personal interpretation.
Marjorie Husain is a Karachi based author and art critic, Marjorie Husain has played an important role in promoting Pakistan’s art and artists both inPakistan and abroad. Her articles have appeared in numerous newspapers and journals and for over two decades she had been a regular contributor to” DAWN NEWS” and “SHE”.

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