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Najmi Sura & Jamil Naqsh An Epic Romance


Najmi Sura & Jamil Naqsh An Epic Romance

ALBEMARLE


Jamil Naqsh & Najmi Sura

The paintings by Jamil Naqsh and Najmi Sura celebrate two very close, subtly interlinked relationships. The first is that of master and pupil - a relationship where the one who was originally the pupil has, in the course of time, become an independent artistic being, while the two still continue to live and work together. The other relationship is their joint, but subtly different, attitudes to the complex artistic history of the Indian subcontinent. In addition to offering a commentary on these, the show informs us about their separate reactions to the development of European contemporary art, as this has increasingly impinged on artists of non-Western origin. In other words, this event offers both a mirror of an intimate personal bond, and also, at the same time, a subtle commentary on recent worldwide cultural developments. The problem for non-European artists in the years after World War II, when communications between cultures improved dramatically, has been how to create a dialogue between European forms and European expectations about art and the backgrounds they themselves come from. The more ancient and sophisticated this cultural background is, the more difficult the transition. To cite one very obvious example, while painting on a large scale is certainly part of the Indian heritage – one thinks of the sumptuous wall paintings in the caves at Ajanta in the Deccan – portable paintings on canvas were an idea brought to India by the British. They have only, in comparatively modern times, become a universal form of expression. Jamil Naqsh’s work, like that of Najmi Sura, calls into play a wide range of references. In his case the references are both Eastern and Western. He has been influenced, for example, by the work of Pablo Picasso, and also, perhaps less expectedly, by the sculpture of Marino Marini, transmuting the work of both of these eminent Western artists into an idiom entirely his own. One also notes a wide range of other references that come from the traditional arts of the subcontinent, not merely its visual arts but poetry and music. For example, in the paintings of doves that have made him famous, the doves are messengers of love, and also emblems of domestic tranquillity. When they are combined with beautiful young women, they recall the images of longing and desire found in traditional ghazal poetry. Najmi Sura’s painting often recall the exquisite miniature portraits produced for Mughal and Rajput patrons in Indian imperial and princely courts. Yet they are never simply enlarged copies of traditional paintings of this kind. The bodies of her subjects are more solidly constructed and fleshly than what one finds in these exemplars. In fact, they often seem to look much further back, to the exquisite frescos at Ajanta that I have already mentioned. There are also elements, sudden shifts of focus for example, that make them seem unambiguously modern – entirely of our own day. While the two artists are immediately distinguishable – one could never mistake the work of one for the work of the other – they do have certain qualities in common, qualities that appear in every period in the art produced in the great Indian subcontinent. These qualities include a gentle sensuality, a kind of romantic earthiness, a combination of the downto-earth and the spiritual. Things that give the majority of us a great deal of pleasure when we are fortunate enough to encounter them in art.

Edward Lucie-Smith Art Historian, Critic and Author


Jamil Naqsh & Najmi Sura : An Epic Romance

Jamil Naqsh, was born in Kairana, Utter Pradash (India), in 1937. He was a young boy when taken to Pakistan by elder siblings, but the memories of the culture and refinement of his early years were to emerge symbolically in his work in the times to come. On one of the exploratory expeditions he visited in Lahore, was the mausoleum of the ruins of the tomb of the Mughal Empress, Nur Jehan. There, Jamil Naqsh read the inscribed epitaph Nur Jehan had written. The text was written in Persian script, accessible to Jamil Naqsh who had studied the classic language of poetry with his father. An English version of the epitaph by John Bowen reads: Upon my grave when I shall die / No lamp shall burn or Jasmin lie No candle with unsteady flame / Serve as reminder of my fame No bulbul chanting overhead / Shall tell the world that I am dead.

Jamil Naqsh watercolour 30 x 25 cm (12 x 10 in) 2014

Moved by the words and the relics of a bygone grandeur, young Naqsh mused on the past when the Empress Nur Jehan would sit behind the Emperor in court and participate in court decisions. He was heartened to see that the tomb was in fact very much a living marvel. There were pigeons nesting in broken walls and flying amongst the remnants of the brilliant blue of the tiled lattice work, in Naqsh’s imagination they appeared as guardians of the ruins. As he quietly watched them, they appeared to him as living links with the past, and a familiar affinity with his distant home. For Jamil Naqsh, throughout his life, the birds were to symbolize an integral facet of his early years and the peaceful boyhood he had left behind him on the banks of the river Jumna. As a teenager he began an epic, two-year journey, traveling alone on foot through other regions. The experience taught him a great deal about art and the traditions of the past, which he absorbed with respect and interest.

Jamil Naqsh watercolour 30 x 25 cm (12 x 10 in) 2014

On his return to Lahore, Naqsh joined the Mayo School of Art. There he explored the aesthetics of contemporary art, before joining the studio of Ustad Mohammad Sharif where he learnt the rudiments and techniques of miniature art. Naqsh discovered birds as a constant element of miniature art, representing links with absent lovers, carrying messages and often poised about the lonely form of a girl waiting patiently for the absent loved one. To this day, Naqsh has acknowledged Ustad Muhammad Sharif as the source of his inspiration in the development of his aesthetic sensibilities.


Throughout his illustrious career, Naqsh has shown his remarkable genius in creating infinite diversity from uniformity, confirming his conviction that subject matter in painting is secondary to the plastic problems the artist must resolve. He was inspired to paint the nude as a rapturous expression of aesthetic appreciation, an investigation of the body as an embodiment of beauty infused with light and tenderness. Shafts of sunlight highlight the beautiful curve of a hip or the cheek of a sleeping beauty. These are sensual paintings in the Mughal tradition but with a modern twist. He relishes the beauty of the female form, and celebrates the joy we find in joining with another. His paintings are a joyous celebration of life and love. Calligraphy was metamorphosed in Naqsh’s extensive series, in which he redefined mass as a complex linear labyrinth. From the beginning work was an obsession as he found the freedom to analyze content, tonality and value. Through the years the artist has remained single minded about his work; it was and remains the crux of his existence. His concerns address the surface of his canvas, the subject a means of manipulating space. Viewing his work today it is clearly undiminished by time; Naqsh retains the intensity and passion as in the full flush of youth. The excitement of exploring his medium and his obsession with his muse, led him to portray Najmi over the years in numerous ways. He introduced elements of Cubism, nuances of Abstraction in the paintings and densely textured Pointillist infused surfaces. He Najmi Sura watercolour 1996

brought into a modern context the concept of the female juxtaposed with pigeons, wings outstretched and creating a flurry of movement. Naqsh’s work was motivated by overwhelming feelings of aesthetic necessity. Najmi Sura, now an eminent, honored artist in her own right, began to paint seriously in 1970. Initially she was excited by two disparate schools of art, the traditional art of miniature painting and the colour and spontaneity of abstraction. She was deeply involved in experimenting with the media, but felt the need for guidance. There was a kinship between the families of Naqsh and Najmi, who had resided together in Kairana. In the fifties Naqsh had lived for a time under her father’s guardianship, and he was there when Najmi was born in 1951. In the seventies, they were both living with families in Karachi, and though they had not met for years, it seemed an obvious choice to approach him for advice. Neither realized that their renewed rapport was to have life changing consequences for

Najmi Sura oil on canvas 1992/3

each of them.


At Najmi Sura’s request, Naqsh examined her work in detail and, without comment he handed her a book on art and artists to read. When she finally put the book down, Naqsh began a dialogue in which they discussed the book and he questioned Najmi as to which of the paintings she preferred. From her stated preferences, Naqsh concluded that essentially she had an inclination towards figurative painting. He then began to initiate her into the discipline of album painting and the artist in Najmi Sura was born. From that time on Najmi has been Naqsh’s muse and companion. With time Najmi Sura was acknowledged as the artist who had modernized the miniature format in interesting ways using the physiognomic, crisp outlines of her teacher Jamil Naqsh’s subjects. While keeping the trappings of the Mughal past; assimilating the brocades, jewellery and profiles of the courtiers of that period, the artist introduced modern elements, incongruous flat planes and clashing shadows to break with tradition. This experimental approach distinguishes her from other artists who have painted Mughal subjects in a revivalist rather than modernist style. Now based in London, Najmi has no problem in acquiring models for her work and she paints from life, retaining the references to the style of the Indian miniature painter, yet maintaining a highly personal approach. The linear force that addresses sweeping, unbroken lines, whether worked with pen or brush is a dominant factor evoking the assurance and conviction of a lifetime of practice. The artist’s work is now contained in many important global collections; one significant art collector in Pakistan has twenty-four of her paintings in his anthology. For several years she has declined to part with any paintings or drawings, to enable her to gather together representative cross section of her oeuvre for exhibition. It will constitute a learning process for aspiring artists and students to enjoy, as well as pleasing art enthusiasts. It will also grace the acknowledgement of her lifetime of art through the award of the much-coveted “Tamgha-i-Imtiaz”, conferred by President Asif Ali Zardari in March 2010. Celebrating the intense romantic companionship of four decades, the eminent artists Jamil Naqsh and Najmi Sura, show their work together in exhibition for the first time. It is a memorable occasion, never to be repeated, never to be forgotten. Marjorie Husain Art Critic & Author


Jamil Naqsh & Najmi Sura | Karachi | 1953

1 Jamil Naqsh | Angel Holding Pigeon oil on canvas 152 x 102 cm (60 x 40 in)


2 Najmi Sura | Courtesan oil on canvas 91 x 61 cm (36 x 24 in)


Jamil Naqsh & Shakir Ali | Karachi | 1970

3 Jamil Naqsh | Portrait of Figure with Pigeon II oil on canvas 76 x 76 cm (30 x 30 in)


Najmi Sura | Karachi | 1974

4 Najmi Sura | Maharaja of Albemarle oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)


5 Jamil Naqsh | Pigeons in Flight oil on canvas 76 x 102 cm (30 x 40 in)


6 Najmi Sura | Lady with Parrot I oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)


Irfan Hussain, Jamil Naqsh & Ali Imam | Karachi | 1968

7 Jamil Naqsh | Portrait of Figure with Pigeon I oil on canvas 76 x 76 cm (30 x 30 in)


Najmi Sura | Karachi | 1975

8 Najmi Sura | Dancing Lady oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)


9 Jamil Naqsh | Figure with Horse oil on canvas 152 x 102 cm (60 x 40 in)


10 Najmi Sura | Singhar I oil on canvas 91 x 61 cm (36 x 24 in)


Jamil Naqsh | London | 1989

11 Jamil Naqsh | Figure Astride Horse oil on canvas 61 x 46 cm (24 x 18 in)


Najmi Sura | London | 1989

12 Najmi Sura | Princess in the Garden oil on canvas 91 x 61 cm (36 x 24 in)


13 Jamil Naqsh | Angel with Pigeons oil on canvas 122 x 152 cm (48 x 60 in)


14 Najmi Sura | Radhas oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)


Jamil Naqsh & Najmi Sura | Matlock, England | 1998

15 Jamil Naqsh | Untitled Calligraphy oil on canvas 183 x 183 cm (72 x 72 in)


16 Najmi Sura | Roop Mati oil on canvas 91 x 71 cm (36 x 28 in)


Jamil Naqsh & Najmi Sura | London | 1989

17 Jamil Naqsh | Gathering II oil on canvas 122 x 152 cm (48 x 60 in)


Najmi Sura | London | 1989

18 Najmi Sura | Lady Playing Flute oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)


Jamil Naqsh & Najmi Sura | Marino Marini Museum | 2004

19 Jamil Naqsh | Lying Figure on Horseback oil on canvas 61 x 46 cm (24 x 18 in)


Najmi Sura | London | 1989

20 Najmi Sura | Azam Shah I oil on canvas 91 x 61 cm (36 x 24 in)


21 Jamil Naqsh | Lying Figure with Pigeon oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)


22 Najmi Sura | Singhar II oil on canvas 91 x 61 cm (36 x 24 in)


23 Jamil Naqsh | Figures with Pigeon oil on canvas 122 x 152 cm (48 x 60 in)


Jamil Naqsh & Najmi Sura | London | 1989

24 Najmi Sura | Sawan Singh and Bani Thani oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)


Jamil Naqsh | Karachi | 1997

25 Jamil Naqsh | Gathering III oil on canvas 91 x 91 cm (36 x 36 in)


26 Najmi Sura | Poetess Merabai oil on canvas 91 x 61 cm (36 x 24 in)


Jamil Naqsh & Najmi Sura | Rome | 2004

27 Jamil Naqsh | Seated Figure oil on canvas 122 x 152 cm (48 x 60 in)


28 Najmi Sura | Lady with Parrot II oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)


Najmi Sura & Jamil Naqsh | Paul Getty Museum | 2002

29 Jamil Naqsh | Portrait of Figure Holding Pigeon III oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)


30 Najmi Sura | A Devotee oil on canvas 91 x 61 cm (36 x 24 in)


Jamil Naqsh | London | 2002

31 Jamil Naqsh | Figure Holding Pigeon oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)


32 Najmi Sura | Two Birds oil on canvas 91 x 61 cm (36 x 24 in)


Jamil Naqsh & Najmi Sura | London | 2002

33 Jamil Naqsh | Gathering I oil on canvas 76 x 102 cm (30 x 40 in)


Najmi Sura | London | 1996

34 Najmi Sura | Love oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)


35 Jamil Naqsh | Nesting oil on canvas 71 x 71 cm (28 x 28 in)


36 Najmi Sura | Princess with Parrot oil on canvas 122 x 91 cm (48 x 36 in)


Jamil Naqsh & Najmi Sura | London | 1996

37 Jamil Naqsh | Taking Flight I oil on canvas 76 x 122 cm (30 x 48 in)


38 Najmi Sura | Dancer oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)


Jamil Naqsh, Najmi Sura & Marjorie Husain | Karachi | 1999

39 Jamil Naqsh | Portrait of Figure with Pigeon III oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)


40 Najmi Sura | Azam Shah II oil on canvas 91 x 61 cm (36 x 24 in)


Jamil Naqsh & Najmi Sura | London | 2009

41 Jamil Naqsh | Portrait of Figure with Pigeon IV oil on canvas 76 x 76 cm (30 x 30 in)


Jamil Naqsh & Najmi Sura | London | 2010

42 Najmi Sura | Bhagmati of Golconda oil on canvas 91 x 61 cm (36 x 24 in)


43 Jamil Naqsh | Portrait with two Pigeons oil on canvas 71 x 71 cm (28 x 28 in)


Edward Lucie-Smith, Najmi Sura & Anna Wong | London | 2010 Najmi Sura receiving “Tamgha-i-Imtiaz” award Jamil Naqsh receiving “Sitara-i-Imtiaz” award (collected by Anna Wong) Presented by President Asif Ali Zardari

44 Najmi Sura | Lady with Parrot oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)


45 Jamil Naqsh | Taking Flight II oil on canvas 152 x 102 cm (60 x 40 in)


46 Najmi Sura | Prince Bedar Bakht oil on canvas 91 x 71 cm (36 x 28 in)


Jamil Naqsh & Edward Lucie-Smith | London | 2011

47 Jamil Naqsh | Portrait of Figure Holding Pigeon I oil on canvas 71 x 71 cm (28 x 28 in)


Najmi Sura, Marjorie Husain & Edward Lucie-Smith Albemarle Gallery | London | 2013

48 Najmi Sura | Courtesan of Abdul Hassan Court oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)


49 Jamil Naqsh | Portrait of Figure Holding Pigeon II oil on canvas 76 x 76 cm (30 x 30 in)


50 Najmi Sura | Lady from the Back oil on canvas 91 x 61 cm (36 x 24 in)


JAMIL NAQSH | index 1

Angel Holding Pigeon

oil on canvas 152 x 102 cm (60 x 40 in)

3

Portrait of Figure with Pigeon II

oil on canvas 76 x 76 cm (30 x 30 in)

5

Pigeons in Flight

oil on canvas 76 x 102 cm (30 x 40 in)

7

Portrait of Figure with Pigeon I

oil on canvas 76 x 76 cm (30 x 30 in)

9

Figure with Horse

oil on canvas 152 x 102 cm (60 x 40 in)

11 Figure Astride Horse

oil on canvas 61 x 46 cm (24 x 18 in)

13 Angel with Pigeons

oil on canvas 122 x 152 cm (48 x 60 in)

15 Untitled Calligraphy

oil on canvas 183 x 183 cm (72 x 72 in)

17 Gathering II

oil on canvas 122 x 152 cm (48 x 60 in)

19 Lying Figure on Horseback

oil on canvas 61 x 46 cm (24 x 18 in)

21 Lying Figure with Pigeon

oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)

23 Figures with Pigeon

oil on canvas 122 x 152 cm (48 x 60 in)

25 Gathering III

oil on canvas 91 x 91 cm (36 x 36 in)

27 Seated Figure

oil on canvas 122 x 152 cm (48 x 60 in)

29 Portrait of Figure Holding Pigeon III

oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)

31 Figure Holding Pigeon

oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)

33 Gathering I

oil on canvas 76 x 102 cm (30 x 40 in)

35 Nesting

oil on canvas 71 x 71 cm (28 x 28 in)

37 Taking Flight I

oil on canvas 76 x 122 cm (30 x 48 in)

39 Portrait of Figure with Pigeon III

oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)

41 Portrait of Figure with Pigeon IV

oil on canvas 76 x 76 cm (30 x 30 in)

43 Portrait with two Pigeons

oil on canvas 71 x 71 cm (28 x 28 in)

45 Taking Flight II

oil on canvas 152 x 102 cm (60 x 40 in)

47 Portrait of Figure Holding Pigeon I

oil on canvas 71 x 71 cm (28 x 28 in)

49 Portrait of Figure Holding Pigeon II

oil on canvas 76 x 76 cm (30 x 30 in)


1

3

5

7

11

13

15

17

19

21

23

25

27

29

31

33

35

37

39

41

43

45

47

9

49


NAJMI SURA | index 2

Courtesan

oil on canvas 91 x 61 cm (36 x 24 in)

4

Maharaja of Albemarle

oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)

6

Lady with Parrot I

oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)

8

Dancing Lady

oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)

10 Singhar I

oil on canvas 91 x 61 cm (36 x 24 in)

12 Princess in the Garden

oil on canvas 91 x 61 cm (36 x 24 in)

14 Radhas

oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)

16 Roop Mati

oil on canvas 91 x 71 cm (36 x 28 in)

18 Lady Playing Flute

oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)

20 Azam Shah I

oil on canvas 91 x 61 cm (36 x 24 in)

22 Singhar II

oil on canvas 91 x 61 cm (36 x 24 in)

24 Sawan Singh and Bani Thani

oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)

26 Poetess Merabai

oil on canvas 91 x 61 cm (36 x 24 in)

28 Lady with Parrot II

oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)

30 A Devotee

oil on canvas 91 x 61 cm (36 x 24 in)

32 Two Birds

oil on canvas 91 x 61 cm (36 x 24 in)

34 Love

oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)

36 Princess with Parrot

oil on canvas 122 x 91 cm (48 x 36 in)

38 Dancer

oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)

40 Azam Shah II

oil on canvas 91 x 61 cm (36 x 24 in)

42 Bhagmati of Golconda

oil on canvas 91 x 61 cm (36 x 24 in)

44 Lady with Parrot

oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)

46 Prince Bedar Bakht

oil on canvas 91 x 71 cm (36 x 28 in)

48 Courtesan of Abdul Hassan Court

oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm (40 x 30 in)

50 Lady from the Back

oil on canvas 91 x 61 cm (36 x 24 in)


2

4

6

8

10

12

14

16

18

20

22

24

26

28

30

32

34

36

38

40

42

44

46

48

50


EDWARD LUCIE-SMITH

MARJORIE HUSAIN

Edward Lucie-Smith is an internationally known art critic and historian, who is also a published poet and a practicing photographer. As a photographer he has exhibited in a wide variety of international locations, ranging from Kuala Lumpur to Rio de Janeiro and Kingston, Jamaica.

Karachi based author and art critic, Marjorie Husain has played an important role in promoting Pakistan’s art and artists both in Pakistan and abroad. Her articles have appeared in numerous newspapers and journals, and for over two decades she has been a contributor to Dawn and She.

He has published more than a hundred books in all, chiefly but not exclusively about contemporary art. He is generally regarded as the most prolific and the most widely published writer on contemporary art. A number of his art books are used as standard texts throughout the world. Among the languages in which they have appeared are Chinese, Arabic and Persian.

In 2000, Marjorie published the first art textbook in Pakistan: Aspects of Art (Oxford University Press).

He has organised exhibitions in a number of galleries worldwide – in Britain, Greece, Germany, the United States, Italy and Estonia, and most recently in Klaipeda, Lithuania. He has also served on the juries of the Cairo, Alexandria and Sharjah Biennials.

Publisher: Albemarle Gallery | 2014 Text: Edward Lucie-Smith | Art Historian, Critic & Author Text: Marjorie Husain | Art Critic & Author Curator: Tony Pontone | Albemarle Gallery Design: Andy Somerford | Albemarle Gallery Photography: Javier Ortega Printers: Oldacres | London Special thanks: Adina Rusu © ALBEMARLE GALLERY 2014 All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any other storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.

In 2003, Marjorie was co-coordinator of the Jamil Naqsh retrospective exhibition held at Mohatta Palace, Karachi. In the same year, she played an active role in organizing the 8th National Visual Art Exhibition held at Alhamra, Lahore. In 2004 Marjorie Hussin was awarded the Fatima Jinnah Medal.


ALBEMARLE

Najmi Sura & Jamil Naqsh  

Celebrating the intense romantic companionship of four decades, the eminent artists Jamil Naqsh and Najmi Sura, show their work together in...