from the writers
1971 Classicism’s Modest Tribute to Modern Spirit
Classicism’s Modest Tribute to Modern Spirit
To talk of Jamil Naqsh’s paintings is like entering into an intimate dialogue with him. What a contrast his paintings offer—to speak loudly for a man who would better like to be fined than open his mouth in self-defence.
Yes, such is Jamil Naqsh—one of the most consistent modern painters of this country, whose genial, sweet disposition seems to be under great strain by his own will to ward off reactionary trends in painting. He is determined to paint the newest and freshest emotion peculiar to our setting.
Born in 1939 at Kairana, U.P., a place known for its famous school of music, in a well-to-do family of zamindars, he was initiated into the art of painting by his father who was himself a competent artist of the Mughal school. So he found a hospitable atmosphere for his artistic inclinations. It is usually an act of supreme sacrifice when an artistfather in our latitudes musters up enough courage to see his son toeing in the same path.
The freedom came to Jamil Naqsh not with an olive branch in its hand. It meant dislocation, uprooting and grim struggle ahead in a different land. The old taken-for-granted amenities soon became things of the past. How to see the day was the new challenge. Our artist friend did all manner of petty jobs during these days, but the fire for art kept on burning so much so that his adversities also contributed something. They taught the best lessons of
forbearance and forthrightness to Jamil Naqsh. He went on scaling heights, which kept as the initiate harboured any hope of reaching the summit.
His first exhibition at the age of 25 was held in Lahore at the Arts Council in 1962. The subsequent one man shows were held in 1963,’64 and ’67. So he is still a man of few exhibitions for his age and reputation. But he remains an artist of exceptional brilliance whose exhibitions are more an invitation to see the osmosis of modernism, than provide a beautiful contrast to those who appear modernists out of sheer vengeance.
Isn’t it a good contrast that a lover of ghazal — a form of poetry with its characteristically pessimistic drone of a plaintive lover — should have found for himself a medium inclined towards becoming most cosmopolitan. That it should have been true even in our society is not surprising. Of all the arts that look upon the West for inspiration the painting is unashamedly the most vocal. There is no doubt that the technology is making big dents in our tradition — and this time it is, unlike colonialism, most welcome though it is for every one to see it erode our spirit. Jamil Naqsh is aware of this ‘erosion’ and hence is playing the same role in our painting which some of our modern poets are performing. He is extending the intensity of ‘feeJ’. His paintings, I tend to agree with a modern painter, resist like a wall’ and don’t let one in easily. Yet once one is in, they unfold their teleos bit by bit.
Four years ago when he showed his paintings at the Karachi Arts Council I recollect to have seen his women and pigeons conforming to the rules of neo- realism. They looked to be a dexterous effort of a young painter who was so much mindful of his tools that he looked determined to insist on artefact as much as on art. How fussy he was about the lyricism of lines and puritanism of form! On top of it he was fond of primary colours like an indulgent grammarian of sorts. He has traversed much distance since then.
Now he is reverting to more light, bright and springy colours of piognant complexity. His recent canvases on show at the Pakistan Art Gallery give an awareness of the Cubist and Mondrian undertones. The women and pigeons are now turning more mature, suggestive. The precision of lines is being supported by delicate texture and the whole atmosphere becomes sensuous. In some of his paintings the modern stress upon unity and purity has become pronounced. They can evoke aesthetic pleasure only when the homogeneity achieved by intricate balancing of space and content is got hold of.
His women and pigeons evoke a feel — an appreciation of something which eludes easy naming. These women acquire some meaning along with the suggestive — or decorative – pigeons. They impart us the feel of a dream in terms of an image of the waking world. His nudes have often been heard gasping and titillating accompanied by the fluttering of pigeons.
The relationship between Jamil Naqsh’s women and pigeonscould not have been dilated adequately when he came up with them in the early phase. But now they have lived quite long enough to whisper something out to you. Are the pigeons sex symbols or serve as a suggestive mark of freedom? But once again the question arises if they can denote freedom to live an under-saturated life when the life- giving principle is so inviting and arresting. Anyhow it is only a guess. Maybe not very correct. freedom doesn’t even seem entertaining ugliness as a way up to freedom. For him the blazing torch of freedom, coupled by artistic purity, is a problem enough for meditation and resolution.
M. A. Siddiqui
Exposition at Pakistan Art Gallery May, 1971