Splendid Works

  • 16 Dec - 22 Dec, 2017
  • Marjorie Husain
  • Art

Recently, showing his work at the Clifton Art Gallery, Karachi, the renowned artist Mashkoor Raza attracted an admiring audience of art enthusiasts to view his latest paintings. There were colourful, abstract, even figurative works, of horses that he loves so much.

Raza, is an artist who sprang to prominence in the 70s. It was an exciting time for artists in Karachi, when an art market was slowly stirring with the influence of Bashir Mirza’s Gallery, Pakistan American Cultural Centre, the Arts Council and the Indus Gallery of Ali Imam. Karachi’s first art school, Karachi School of Art (KSA), was producing seriously talented artists while maestros like Riffat Alvi, Nahid Raza, Lubna Agha, Qudsia Nisar and Meher Afroz were beginning their careers in art.

Karachi was the capital city with foreign embassies in residence back then, so much of the artist’s work found homes abroad. Raza, who graduated from KSA in 1972, was an outstanding ‘star’ pupil, receiving top honours in first division, a gold medalist, whose teacher, Mansoor Rahi predicted great things for him.

At that time, Raza was expressing his views through purely abstract works and the young artist emerged on Karachi’s art scene as a comet-like phenomenon; dynamic, diverse and spontaneous.

Raza held his first solo exhibition at the University of Karachi in 1975, and followed up by showing his work in an exhibition at the Karachi Arts Council in 1976, in which he was awarded the first prize.

As time passed, the increasing demand for Raza’s work was very much a factor of his work pattern. He was at his zenith, working constantly and exhibitions followed on a regular basis.

As a painter, he was extremely prolific; the artist was persuaded to exhibit his work in various suitable venues in the city.

One recalls an exhibition at a local hotel, when his entire collection was taken by a foreign art collector, who shipped the work abroad. Perhaps one of the salient attractions of his work was how discernibly they conveyed the enjoyment the artist underwent during the process of painting them. Standing before his work in a gallery, the observer was aware of a tangible communication, a dialogue crackling with energy.

The 80s was an extremely productive decade for Raza, who had begun to widen his artistic scope. In the midst of his swirling shapes, fragmented motifs emerged, and he also began to experiment with calligraphy.

In 1984, he was a prize winner at the National Visual Art Exhibition held in Lahore and he went on to produce some of his most admired paintings; the wild, freely galloping horses in brilliant shades that he interspersed with abstract shapes. In one sequence of work, he added figurative elements, and the comparison between the thundering horses and delicately rendered female forms created an interesting enigma.

Experimental in his approach to art, he incorporated intriguing symbols as subject matter. Horses; a symbol of power and strength, in mythology, are linked to the sun, drawing the chariots of the sun deities, a part of history and mythology since the invasion of Aryan tribesmen in the second millennium BC.

The sun motif used by the artist is a traditional symbol of fertility and life, and because of its rising and setting, is also an ancient symbol of life and death.

Mashkoor creates vibrant compositions and the ancient symbols, rendered from a contemporary viewpoint, appear to link the past inexorably with the present, while allowing his viewers to interpret the work according to their own perceptions.

The artist’s work has been shown in solo exhibitions in Hong Kong, India, Dubai and the USA, and he has participated in group shows from Pakistan internationally.

In 2007, Raza was awarded the President’s Pride of Performance medal for his contribution to art in Pakistan. It was an occasion to remember, with Raza and family celebrating at a dinner party which he threw for all his delighted friends and fellow artists.

Throughout the years, he has continued to relish his art. His work has been seen in many exhibitions around the world, and is included in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Though pressure of work, travel and other responsibilities may ensure time for fewer solo displays in Karachi, he continues to show his work at regular intervals, whether painting in oils or water colours, figurative, abstract or calligraphic style, Raza is busy in his studio.

His solo exhibition in 2014, took place at the Mussawir Art Gallery, Dubai, and in 2015, Ejaz Art Gallery, Lahore.

His latest exhibition in Karachi showed that the artist retains his aesthetic vigour with enjoyment, which he selflessly shared with his audience at the gallery. •