Lahore is not only the city of colors, but also a center of academic acquirements for centuries. Politically this city has been important enough to become the capital, once for the Mughals, and later for Ranjit Singh. Saints found this place as their eternal abode while kings, queens and princes patched its soil with eternal sleep.
Shopping has also been a festivity in this city while the taste buds may rejuvenate by its local and adopted recipes.
Architecture has been a mark of distinction with small brick construction of the buildings under British influence during the colonial rule. The Mall, once known as Thandi Sarak is mainly studded with architectural designs of famous Bhai Ram Singh. This road, apart from being delightfully laced with green trees, is also known for academic institutions standing tall on its edges. The Atchison College, University of the Punjab and NCA are best known while opposite to NCA, along the Nasir Garden, a road may lead you to Government College, commonly known as GC which now has earned the status of university. This college has been a towering institution for providing excellence in education since it was established in late nineteenth century.
Minhas Art Gallery is a new feature in this mammoth building of GCU, named after Mr Aslam Minhas (Late), a very devoted and studious teacher of Fine Art department; the only department in Punjab to provide Art education to the boys at intermediate level.
This gallery was inaugurated on 30th October last year with a display of a rare collection of paintings by Aslam Minhas Late.
It was a group show of Pakistani artists, representing different styles and their respective time starting from the birth of Pakistan.
The collection included the work of, Anna Molka Ahmed, Colin David, Zulqarnain Hyder, Khalid Saeed Butt, Dr Ajaz Anwar, Mian Ejaz ul-Hasan, Dr Shahida Manzoor, Kehkashan Jafery, Mashkoor Raza, Dr Musarrat Hassan, Shahnawaz Zaidi, Erfan Ullah Babar, Salman Farooqi, Sumera Jawad, Sadia Rai, Dr Naseem Akhtar, Munazza Rashid and Mrs Aslam Minhas.
The three panel painting by Mian Ejaz ul-Hassan “the Red Signal”, was a social comment of mid-seventies, under the influence of Communism that demanded basic rights and social equilibrium in reaction to the monarchy or capitalism that in its time, deprived human beings of their basic and fundamental rights. Mian Ejaz ul-Hassan, prior to be known as a specialist of Amaltas trees, did express very radical and socialist doctrine, a fashion and trend of his times as it was the thought of the day in mid and late seventies which inspired the educated youth in the subcontinent as well before falling a prey to the glamour and force of the western capitalistic web.
Dr Shahida Manzoor has started participating in exhibitions recently after a long period of almost eight years as she was out of the country for her doctoral degree in Art History, since she is very busy in carrying out research program as the coordinator at Research Center, College of Art & Design University of the Punjab Lahore, it is getting harder for her to paint prolifically, but even then, her passion for painting, her beloved topic; the cityscape of Lahore is still getting powerful expression through vivid and massive rendering of architectural backgrounds and elongated perspectives of narrow streets of the “Old City” with rickshaws and tongas moving across the dripping red canvasses. She named her frame as “the Dying Heritage”.
Next to Dr Shahida, was displayed the ever blazing frame of Kehkashan Jafery, the pure red, blue and yellow colors were scorching with the subdued dancing figures in the midst but not arranged without consideration of focal point. Kehkashan’s pure colors have always been a trademark of her powerful, bold and very enthusiastic expression, she does not like to mix and reproduce secondary shades, her strokes with blistering effects, set the surface of canvas on fire and attract the viewer with energy and liveliness.
Hats off for the arrangement of the canvasses, that created a contrast from the ablaze frame of Ms Jafery to the soothing and sensuous blue and white one, touched with the warmth of blue by Mashkoor Raza under the title of “untitled”. The nude figure was adorned with the help of Cubist technique and a wonderful combination of colors.
Next was hanging a portrait by Dr Musarrat Hassan, another researcher and art historian who can rarely find time to paint, but does paint. The soft and subtle depiction of the face of an elderly woman, with gleam in her eyes and glow on the wrinkled skin, displayed the keen observation of the artist.
Shahnawaz Zaidi, put on show a realistic portraiture of a Tabla Nawaz (Drummer) which seemed photo-realistic with dramatic light falling upon the silky hair and across the dress of the model; might also be made of silk. Few commented on this painting as “unlike Zaidi’s”. Shahnawaz Zaidi is a remarkable artist, who paints with certain ideas and concepts whenever he picks the brush to paint, but in this painting, it was more skill.
Next was an innocent frame by Anila Zulfiqar, a young teacher and artist from University of the Punjab. She, with her soft pinkish and olive green tinges, painted the surface that looked like “fairyland” but her style suggested the European impressionism of the late nineteenth century.
Next was the frame of Erfan Ullah Babar in pastels, who tried to capture the ambiance of solitude within a room, the sole chair with a pair of pants thrown at the back, in a mild dark environment, was very suggestive on the textured pastel sheet in greenish-gray shade, reminding the technique of Edward Degas.
Sumera Jawad is a thematic painter now a day, for most of art lovers and critics; she has been a portrait painter. But since she has started her studio-based higher education of doctoral level, a transitional phase has forced her to paint on certain themes and techniques. Mostly of her work now falls in “feminist” dogma.
Her canvas under the title of “Mother Earth” was on display at the Minhas Art Gallery with a downcast detail of two figures in a very articulated outline. Her skill of painting human body was obvious even after her intentional strive of covering the inviolability of human beings. But the painting got attention of many visitors due to its subject matter.
Another painter who is new to the painters’ arena, as she was abroad for the last five or six years, displayed her latest work; which could be categorized as “conceptual” as far as the subject matter was concerned. Sadia Rai, a ‘dogmatic painter’ displayed a canvas, mostly painted in black, and on the focal point where a female figure, painted in vivid red paint was shown encaged in a white ice-like cube. The frame under the title of “Desire & Destiny” was among the fresh works by new talent.
Ayesha Sidiqui’s painting with good color combination and a calligraphic technique was very eye-catching but was not expressing any clear idea.
Dr Naseem Akhtar, another researcher, participated in the exhibition through her watercolors, a pampered student of Anna Molka, Dr Naseem Akhtar took part in an exhibition after a long time, since she was not having ample time and good health for such a laborious job, with research obligations at LCWU. But her frames showed a specific panorama of her vision through transparency of water based paints.
There were only two sculptures, put on view on the corners of the gallery; one was a bust by Mrs Minhas; a normal academic creation while the other one was an abstract and mythological mould by Munazza Rashid, a sculptress from NCA. Munazza’s piece was under the title of “Turmoil” which in the solid three-dimensional shape, expressed, or tried to express the inner dichotomy of human thought and imagination. It could be said as a modern contemporary sculpture of Pakistan.
The exhibition provided the viewer with an opportunity to have a look on the work of old masters along with the new generation. It also provided the opportunity to modern painters to see themselves through the years. The oldies were experimenting in their respective “modern times”. No one could be perfect without experience, and Minhas art gallery has shown the diversity and flair of different painters, old and the new ones under one roof. Hope that this gallery would excel in the art scene, since its objectives are more educational rather than monetary.
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