Mehr Afroz: A Philosopher Artist


Petite and comely, Mehr Afrozs latest exhibition of 26 paintings at Ms. Zehra Hussains Chawkandi Art (from 30th Jan. until 10th Feb.) is known as Amulet Series.All her Amulet paintings are untitled, because “titles limit ones thinking and horizon”, according to Mehr. Her medium is acrylic with pasted in layers and choice of colours – browns, yellows, blacks, maroons and greys – but used with great sense of composition. Each painting has visual and aesthetic quality. She is creative and original.

Mehr started with prints in 1971, when she had come over from Lucknow, India where she had graduated in Fine Arts. During the last 22 years she has held six solo exhibitions. The latest at Chawkandi is after a lapse of about four years. Why such a lag of time? She just doesnt pick up a subject like that. Moreover she likes sunlight and adores blue sky, under which she paints. Her “Amulet series” demands an intense involvement on the part of the viewer, involvement that sets free the imagination and movement in the stillness of her composition.

Mehr is very meticulous, and “even for putting a dot I have to think and plan”. Her work involves precision, planning and discipline. She uses iconography, images, motif and symbols to express the spiritual bankruptcy of modern day human being and society.

Mehr, the person, when she thinks about her work in conceptual terms is a treat to listen; but you have to really listen. Our attention was diverted to the sound of shot fired by police while chasing dacoits down below on the road. But Mehr continued talking; perhaps she had not heard the shot!

“Creativity is for upliftment of human values. My Amulets are a key to finer values of life – Truth, Honesty etc., which have been taken over in todays materialistic world by greed, nepotism, selfishness. We are wealthy-in material sense, but have lost the goodness, kindness, simplicity. Lotus depicts purity; sun is symbol of life; but who bothers. Now artificiality dominates. We all have created our own Amulets, to whom we approach for favours, instead of God, Allah – whatever one may call or, Nature.”

“Mehr was talking, Present is linked with past. It is our past which always influences our present and future.”

Mehrs grasp of medium is complete, with harmony, in composition and execution and multi-layered working of surfaces, perhaps reflective of an artist who had started with print making. Symbols for Mehr, are a key to past. She explores the finer values, the mystery and the hidden meanings of primitive symbols. The feeling of something primitive is very much there. Her paintings elicit a certain reverence and somewhat awe. There is a latent appeal in her paintings. Mehr works laboriously to achieve the correct texture and surface. Mehr wants to project human nature as an unchanging value. Style and strength of her work reflects the convictions of her philosophy. “My paintings are my thinking, based on old values and traditions”, says Mehr, philosophically.

Mehr teaches in “Indus Valley School of Art”. She has recently returned from Dhaka after participating in binnial exhibition, where she won an award.

Girya chahay kharabi meray kashyaney kee

Dar-0-dee war say tabkey hay bayaban hoona

– Ghalib