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The Colours of Sindh

Author: Marjorie Husain      Publications: The Review–Art      Dated: 5 Mar 1998

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Displayed at the Chawkandi Art, the third solo exhibition of water-colourist Ghalib Baqar is a colourful affair, whereby abstract imagery assimilates symbols of solid objects. The outdoors is his studio. He roams through Malir, the fisheries and further afield in Sindh, Moenjodaro, absorbing atmosphere and colour. A few strokes in his paintings suggest rural houses, the mast of a ship, dense habitation. Sweeps of colour make their own statement, becoming sky, sea or earth. Experimental in approach, Baqar creates exciting textures and tonal effects with chemicals, varying minute amounts to suit his purpose. Unlike western painters who create white, unpainted areas on surfaces using masking tape or masking fluid, Baqars negative space is incorporated by brush control. He has not made use of the colour white for twenty years.

Painting on spot since 72, the artist has worked his oeuvre through several phases. He graduated from the Karachi School of Art in 75 at the age of nineteen and is well grounded in the academics of watercolour. Earlier, he established a reputation as a painter of land and sea-scapes before experimenting with a surrealistic idiom. After winning prizes in local group shows, the artists first solo exhibition was held at B.M.s Gallery in `83. At that time, the subject of his painting was realistic, the elements he painted as abstract forces. In 88, he was awarded the first prize for water-colour in the National Binnale held in Lahore. The research into his medium caught the interest of Ali Imam who offered him his second solo exhibition at the lndus Gallery. There a collection of abstract works, an extension of his foray into surrealism, found forms, surfaces and spaces blending shades. He expanded the scope of his medium with diluted acids and rock salt. Now, seven years on, Baqar shows his most vibrant work to date. Examine the surfaces carefully, there are a myriad colours emerging from the spontaneous melding of variegated shades. Pin points of light stream horizontally and vertically across the paintings. He works on several surfaces at the same time. Painting outdoors, he absorbs the environment and transfers it to the paper in his own idiom. He does not sketch or use the camera. His abstractions are born of reality.

Baqar has been immersed in art all his adult life. He taught art in Quetta until 81, and joined the Karachi Grammar School as an art teacher in 93, where he remains to this day. A distinguished academic, Baqars father fostered in him an appreciation of poetry. There is an artist of calligraphy in his family tree, inspiring him to practise the art on his own. There are two examples of calligraphy in the exhibition; a rare glimpse of the discipline the artist commands at will. He loves to paint and expects to continue with his analysis of methods and mediums. Unperturbed by flaws existent in the current art milieu, he believes that true artists will survive.

An artist of his time, the vitality of his work is due to the power of his expression and his impulsive use of colour, rather than his subject. Baqars abstract idiom is more a free rendering of nature.