AUTHOR: SHAMIM AKHTER
DATED: 16-25 NOV 1999
Chawkandi Ar t mounted an exhibition of recent paintings of Meher Afroze and Mussarat Mirza from 16th Nov. to 25th Nov, 99.
Mussarat Mirza, a Sukkur/Hyderabad based artist, is a professor of fine arts at the University of Jamshoro, Sindh. She keeps travelling between Sukkur and Hyderabad often as she has established her studio at Sukkur. She started painting at an earl age, a time when hardly any woman was seen outdoors in the area. She owes her artistic sensibilities to her father. Her father had a great appreciation of art and Mussarat followed in his footsteps. Her mother wanted all her children to go into medical profession. She often told Mussarat to do her intermediate again so that she could get admission in a medical college. Finding her irresponsive, she would taunt, “You want to please your father.”
Mussarat is all admiration for her father. She remembers him fondly and elevates him to the pedestal of a seer. With a pleasant personality and smiling face, unmarried Mussarat says, “If I had come across somebody half the qualities of my father, I would have married him.”
As women were not allowed to go outdoors, Mussart painted her landscapes through her windows and from the terrace. She never painted her landscapes on the spot. At times her father took her on long drives and landed her in a forlorn place and asked her to paint; but apprehensive of the atmosphere, she never felt at ease to do so. In respect of her passion for painting, her father, a tradesman in arm and ammunition, sent her to Lahore for further studies. Prior to that her father had hired an aged teacher of art, Jamnadas, for her who came to her house to teach Mussart painting and drawing when she was only eight. Jamnadas was a graduate from JJ School of Art, Bombay.
Mussarat counts herself lucky for having very good teachers throughout. In Lahore also she was one of those lucky ones who were taught by Nasim Qazi, and Khalid Iqbal. While talking about her earlier paintings, throughout a scholarship winner, Mussarat says that it was an experimental work. Her work was labeled as a modern art. She painted abstract with a flood of bright colours. Circumstances led her to move to Sindh and the environment made her paint what she saw and felt. Leaving aside plenty of opportunities, Mussarat opted for a teaching job at the Fine Arts Department of Sindh University Jamshoro because she wanted to be near her ailing mother. Everything has a price and she paid for it. Now she feels that during all those teaching years, she lost herself. She feels that she sustained on a pension. Basically she was a painter and as a teacher she could not afford to paint. It were only five or six works that she could paint a year. After all that mental torment, she finds her heart like a sieve. Till today she feels her heart being scratched all the time, She admits living with good people with a bad taste in her mouth.
When it comes to painting Mussarat paints vastness of a desert as she saw it while on outings with her father and dwellings where women were kept and she was one of them. Her previous works are marked with a lot of figurative paintings. When she became a witness of linguistic and political murders and saw people dying, and crying, as a reaction she pushed the figures out of her canvases. She started painting deserted houses covered by dust – dust present in the atmosphere and dust of linguistic, sectarian and political prejudices. One can experience the horror of loneliness in her painted dwellings. Only a very few have life signs. In one of her paintings on display at Chawkandi, four pigeons are the messengers of life and make the viewer think of what lies inside the walls and hidden people with hearts full of desires and aspirations. Mussarat is fond of flowers and the spring season but her canvas depicts colours of fall. She says, I am colourless. Even if try to use bright colours, specially red, I feel the work does not belong to me. For me painting is not merely a landscape, it is an absorbing reality.” And the colourless mud houses she paints are her dwelling points. How can she paint that is not there in herself, as she claims to have led a Nuns life? While talking about her future exhibition in early year 2000, Mussarat talks about colours and colourful figures with philosophy on her canvases.
Meher Afroze paints the ugliness of reality
Meher Afroze writes about her present work on display at Chawkandi. “In this series, I have used the perfectly balanced relationship between the central point and the circle as an allegory. lt is my belief that all humans are born with an instinct of right and wrong. Reinforced by religion and society this instinct builds a protective circle of spirituality around them.”
Thanks to the discovery of relationship between the central point and the circle by Meher Afroze, we have found an artist of individual artistic sensibilities in the person of Meher Afroze. She was a total loss in her early works of dabbed prints for more than ten years. She links her present creativity with her past work, saying she was Meher ten years back also as she is today; but she does not realise the emergence of new Meher since the year 1987 when she came up with her first solo exhibition of paintings and etchings. Her figurative paintings were a major departure in her journey from prints to paints. Since then, Meher is exhibiting her artistic sensibilities through colours and forms with a special stress on texture. She equates texture with language. One finds hardly anywhere a smooth application of colour. Wood itself is a living thing. Her paints further enliven its grains. All her works at Chawkandi are on wood, a medium she has adopted for quiet sometime. Mehers paintings are an outcry of her philosophy. They belong to her. If anybody dares paints like her, cannot refute her influence on his work.
Born in Lucknow, Meher graduated in Fine Arts from Govenment College of Art and Crafts, Lucknow. She obtained her Art Masters Training Course from Lucknow Government Art College. She has served in the capacity of Senior Lecturer at the Central Institute of Arts and Crafts, Karachi, and now is a teacher at lndus Valley School of Art. She won first prize in Graphics at National Art Exhibition.
Meher does not find any change in her ideology except the influences of what she gained through experience and observation. She feels that cultural influence of Lucknow is as much a part of her personality as the society of today in Karachi. All these interactions with people and society influence her paintings also. She says, “In the 20th Century when values are being redefined, words and terminology is also going through a change. So is painting changing with the change of values and terminology. Talking about her past thematic paintings Masks and Puppets, Meher says “We all have masked ourselves with the unending desires of trivialities and mostly we act like puppets in the hands of our greed. God made man superior to the rest of the creation; but he has become inferior by running after meaningless goals.
Whatever philosophy Meher may have and whatever title she may give to her works, her paintings carry an intrinsic artistic sensibility. Their art value is much above the titles she uses. She is the only artist in Pakistan who paints ugliness of reality and it pleases the eyes.