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A Painter of the Soil

Author: Shamim Akhter      Publications: Unknown      Dated: Not Known

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A graduate from Karachi School of Art, Ghalib Baqar can rightly be called a painter of the soil. Though he has also used oil as his medium, he mostly paints in water colour. He philosophises his choice to paint and says that like a flower that emits scents without knowing why it does so, he paints out of compulsion as if he was destined to do so. He says, “l am like a tool in the hands of painting. lt is not I who has selected to paint, rather painting has selected me for its execution.” His surroundings added to what was inculcated in his blood stream. His home was a place for the intellectuals. His father, Professor Mujtaba Hussain, was a play and short story writer. His circle of friends included poets, writers, and painters. The atmosphere enhanced Ghalibs yearnings. Hence he became a painter for his expression of thought and not a doctor as he had planned during his school days. Instead, he studied philosophy for his graduation and obtained his Masters in Urdu Literature. When I call Ghalib a painter of the soil, it is his linkage with the Sub-continents classical literature and intellectual affinity with its cultural history that compels me to say so. His current exhibition at Chawkandi Art is a verdict on his mental makeup.

Ghalib Baqar has painted through water colour what is contained in the poetry of our classical poets – like Ghalib, Yagana Changaizi, Mir Anees and Mir Dabeer and Mir. Apart from the thought behind his paintings, his hues and forms are pleasing to the eye. To fulfil the requirement of the subject, he borders his works creating an impression of page forms from the classical books where matter was placed within a linear frame. He divides and sub-divides his spaces with painterly skills and some of his paintings are equally attractive if looked at upside down.

Ghalib Baqar is an art teacher also. He teaches Fine Arts at the Karachi Grammar School with an experience of teaching at Arts Council Quetta from 1978 to 183. Being a student of philosophy, he studies all the relatives subjects, which create positive effects on his paintings. With painterly skills, he bring in poetic realities on his canvas; but his painting overwhelms his papers as is seen in his paintings on display at Chawkandi Art. He has calligrapher verses from the master poets, some of the papers carry portraits of the poets and yet his colours, forms and divisions put together form a work of art – a painting, and not a narration. He has equal command on the history of art in the Sub-continent and critically evaluates the works of Pakistani artists. He finds water colour as a challenging medium.

Paging through the history of water colour in the Sub-continent and in Pakistan, Ghalib Baqar critically views the works of Chughtai and Zainul Abedin who established their individuality through water colour despite the fact that Chughtai was influenced by Bengal School of Art and Rajput School and some of the works of Zainul Abedin depict the influence of Chinese style, both of them were original painter. He calls Chughtai a great mind though, according to him, Chughtai could not come out of the web of Mughal Princes. Ghalib remarks that Chughtais woodcutter carry an axe also looks like Prince Saleem. He could not face the realities of the time although he was a contemporary of lqbal and Taigore who were writing revolutionary poetry and Subcontinent was afire by freedom movement. Ghalib thinks that that if Chughtai had come out of his nightmare and worked his revolutionary spirit out on his paper, he would have had attained the heights of Piccaso. He praises Sadequain for painting Ghalibs anguish with oil.

Ghalib admires Shakil Ali for breaking the static scene of Pakistan art by introducing Modern Art. This movement enhanced the scenario of art in Pakistan at the same time damaging it too as any Tom and Dick was labelled an artist by merely throwing colour on the canvas without having knowledge of ABCD of art. Our painters simply forgot or purposely ignored that they had their roots in the Sub-continent. Art became a product of news instead of vision. A small group of artists worked with water colours but without much life. ln fact, traditional painting in water colour died in the Sub-continent with the death of Chughtai. The influence of the British in the Sub-continent did not spare even the water colour paintings of the time. British have a three dimensional thought process and the third D is evident in their water colour painting also. Their works were transparent, fresh, soft and spontaneous. They did not use white; instead, they would leave the paper space as white. The same British trend travelled to America also. Ghalib Baqar and others of his group, including Zaheen, Najam and Abdul Hai who started water colour painting in the seventies, worked under the influence of the British technique and style. The group reached the heights of their contemporaries in England by painting surrounding landscapes and cities and places in Pakistan. Yet the works suffered a weak point. The contents were Pakistani but way of expression was totally British. The painted papers presented a situation like an Englishman narrating stories of Britain in Urdu language.

Ghalib Baqar has rebelled from the set trend of water colour in his present exhibition at Chawkandi Art. He has made a positive use of his intellectual affinity with the Sub-continent by introducing images of Anis, Ghalib, and their poetic lines including those of Dabir, Yagana and Mir in a way that they all become integral part of a whole. He has chosen a palette closer to the taste of the Sub-continent breaking the spell of the British influence. The panels and borders on his paper have been borrowed from our classical books. Ghalib has worked his present papers in his own tradition. He paints without a layout and drawing. He has not used pencil in his present works also. Lets see where he lands in his next exhibition with his automatism and experimentation of images. Hopefully, Ghalib will not ignore the fact that painting is a visual experience and revolutionary philosophies take a secondary position on a canvas as compared to the forms and hues.