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The Tension of Opposites

Author: Ali Iman      Publications: The News - Encore (p.32)      Dated: 22 Oct 2000

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Unver Shafi Khan is a painter with a difference. Well-versed in the history of art and literature, Unver made an unusual entry into the art world of Pakistan in the mid-1980s. Fifteen summers later a visit to his studio by the sea in Karachi proves yet again that most painters and poets of significance are never nursed in art schools and universities.

Nature has gifted this Pakistan born and bred artist with an inner sensibility and intuitive skill that results in paintings that challenge with their subtlety and (based on the current viewing) increasingly provocative in their content. His intuitive sense of design, handling of colour and play of form articulate simply and powerfully the crucible of his art. His is a painterly perception which emerges from within after deep introspection. His definitive imagery is a result of acute self-censorship of his visual process at any given stage. This development one has seen literally from one painting to the next – extremely personal and constantly probing.

Barring some, most painters in Pakistan use derivative images and fashionable, transparently lifted concepts. Others, more talented, after some breakthroughs, begin to repeat themselves which can be suicidal – creatively and literally!

Unver, like Zahoor-ul-Akhlaque and Imran Mir, has tackled this double-edged sword of derivation and repetition with consummate skill. Always thinking and with an audacious eye.

His many solo exhibitions bear testimony to the fertility of his mind. He has constantly infused in his new images a distinctive evolvement from earlier work. And slowly and surely, he has made us bend to the will of his art. At times witty, at times mocking us with the lie that we believe in (as in painting), and never one to play to the gallery, this painter has quietly unfolded his world around us. We are suddenly on his wave length.

Those who have charted his growth will always find something which stimulates their inquiry. But Unver is not there to shock or please his viewer. He tackles his aesthetic problem in an extremely personal diction.

The present collection, his latest series of paintings, deals yet again with the tension of opposites. Hard edged line to soft and blurred line; hot, blood reds and soft, pearly grays are suggestions of figure and concrete form – in a sense dealing with more than figure. ln Lahore, the city of landscape painters, this body of work should be essential viewing.

 

Unvers intuitive sense of design, handling of colour and play of form articulate simply and powerfully the crucihle of his art. His is a painterly perception which emerges from within after deep introspection.