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Aqua Perceptions

Author: Shamim Akhter      Publications: The Nation–Art (p.10)      Dated: 31 Jan 2004

Exhibition Navigation

An exhibition of 34 watercolour paintings by Ghalib Baqar is currently on at Chawkandi Art, Karachi.

Ghalib Baqars exhibits are mostly based on marine life, cityscape and seaside with boats and ships – all watered by rain through the skilful use of watercolour, He skilfully paints water falling on water. His current show at Chawkandi is representative of abstract art in the true sense. His forms are abstracted from reality. He seems to be abstracting hues as well from his colours.

Sensitive to national issues, it hurt Ghalib to find marine life destroyed at Karachi shores by the ugly oil spill. He amalgamated the pleasure of his boyish fondness for spot painting of fisheries and the present curse of the oil spill and successfully portrayed how man can mercilessly destroy nature without regrets. His marine depictions are shouting, crying and yet showing smile linked with hope. Ghalib earnestly believes that hope should not die. The hope on his canvases lives on through his palette and the timings he paints.

Ghalib graduated from Karachi School of Art in 1975. To link his paintings to the soil, he thought it compulsory to have a thorough knowledge of Urdu Literature. He obtained his Masters in Urdu Literature from Karachi University in 1994. He philosophised his choice to paint and said that like a flower that emitted scents without knowing why it did so, he painted out of compulsion as if he was destined to do so. He says, “I am like a tool in the hands of painting. It is not I who has selected to paint; rather painting has selected me for its execution.” The title of one of his paintings explains this to the full.

His home was a place for intellectuals. His father, Professor Mujtaba Hussain, was a playwright and also a short story writer. His circle of friends included poets, writers, and painters. The atmosphere enhanced Ghalibs yearnings. His linkage with the Subcontinents classical literature and intellectual affinity with its cultural history compels me to call him a painter of the soil.

Ghalib is also an art teacher. He teaches at the Visual Art Department of Karachi University. Ghalib critically views the works of Chughtai and Zainul Abaideen who established their individuality through watercolour. Despite the fact that Chughtai was influenced by the Bengal School of Art and Rajput School, and some of the works of Zainul Abedin depicted the influence of Chinese style, both of them were original painters. He calls Chughtai a great mind though, according to him, Chughtai could not come out of the 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.

Ghalib Baqar rebelled from the set trend of watercolour in his exhibition at Chawkandi Art. He made a positive use of his intellectual affinity with the Subcontinent by introducing surrounding landscapes and images of Anis, Ghalib, and web of Mughal Princes. Ghalib remarked that Chughtais woodcutter carrying an axe also looked like Prince Saleem. He could not face the realities of the time although he was a contemporary of Iqbal and Taigore who were writing revolutionary poetry and Sub continent was afire by freedom movement.

Ghalib admires Shakir Ali for breaking the static scene of Pakistani art by introducing Modern Art. This and their poetic lines including those of Dabir, Yagana and Mir in a way that they all become integral part of a whole. He chose a palette closer to the taste of the Subcontinent breaking the spell of the British influence. The panels and borders on his canvases were borrowed from our classical books. Ghalib worked his canvases in his own tradition. He painted without a layout and drawing.

Ghalib went through a short spell of self contradiction at Zenaini in a group show. With his automatism and experimentation of images, he painted nudes in cubism on small scale when Afghanistan was burning under a shower of bombing by US warplanes. He thought that the Taleban deserved it because they did not let girls go to schools. There he forgot a lesson of logic and ethics as a student of philosophy. Perhaps Ghalib realised 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.