Shaped by time and tide, President’s Pride of Performance award winning painter Jamil Naqsh ‘s artistic career has for us some very significant turning points to note and appreciate. Born in an economically well-to-do landlord family of Kairana (Uttar Pardesh), India on December 25, in 1939, he was his father Abdul Basit’s beloved son. In Kairana, Abdul Basit was known among those who had both money and mind. Although he has friendly relations with some practicing politicians and shared with them his point of view too, but, he enjoyed much and felt at ease in the company of friends who belonged to the creative field of Fine a11, literature and music. Psychology was Abdul Basit’s favourite subject. He published many valuable books on this subject. He was also considered a good practitioner of the Mughal Art.
Jamil Naqsh had great admiration for his father’s friends. His writer and artist friends particularly impressed him. By seeing his father painting and his collection of mt, he began to paint. His father noticed his son’s interest in art and decided to help him in becoming what he had wanted to by giving him some basic lessons.
For Jamil Naqsh, the cultural environment of Lahore was full of fascination. It could nourish his artistic talent. In 1953, following his home-bred literary taste and idea of becoming a fine artist; he joined Mayo School of Art, Lahore.
There, for about two years, he remained fondly engaged in learning various disciplines of art. But then surprisingly, he left the school without completing his academic training, saying, “I was not after obtaining some Diploma. “
In 1924, Ustaad Haji Muhammad Sharif’s solo exhibition ofMughal style paintings (Miniatures) in London had been successful in drawing the attraction of serious connoisseurs of art and earned him a title of MBE (Member British Empire). The same year, after retirement from the Court of Patiala in 1954, Haji Sharif came to Lahore, joined the faculty of Mayo School of Art and started teaching traditional Mughal art (Miniature Painting). Jamil Naqsh was happy on becoming a Shagird (student) of such a great master of indigenous art. At this School and after leaving it, for about a year, he wholeheartedly followed and practiced all that his ustaad (teacher) taught him about the various schools (styles) and techniques of Mughal Art. Although Jamil Naqsh left Lahore for Karachi, but he remained seriously engaged with his painting work. He was also experimenting to create a new style—– perhaps in the way Rabindranath Tagore or Abdur Rehman Chughtai had introduced a fresh regime in painting by using traditional concepts of Eastern Art.
In 1975 ‘s Centenary exhibition of National College of Art established as a result ofup-gradation of Mayo School of Art, he displayed a painting which was finely created in traditional idiom although it was not as colourful as it should be according to the familiar style of local art, but its linear quality was an attraction for the viewers. The other significant point to note in this painting was its dramatic setting of characters. A young lady holding a flower in her delicate fingers was enjoying its fragrance and watching two pigeons flying and playing in the sky. As the date was not mentioned, one could only guess that it belonged to the period when Jamil Naqsh was under the tutelage of Haji Muhammad Sharif.
In Karachi, Jamil Naqsh was received warmly and he readily adjusted in the company of serious practitioners of art and literature. One of them was Ali Imam, painter and art-promoter, and the other was Nasim Durrani, fiction writer who later on became the editor of Seep, a literary magazine.
Thematically, Jamil Naqsh’s exquisitely created impressions have always been expressing all that he had been seeing, experiencing or thinking while living in a post-world war era. For a sensitive painter like Jamil Naqsh, the dominant capitalist market-economy had left man all alone to face a world full offears and phobias. He is helpless before all oppression and destruction. His hands are tied to the back.
This misery has always worried Jamil Naqsh. He believes in humanity as the solution of all problems. That’s why his art highlights all those humanistic concepts, which he thinks can bring happiness to life. Seeing his figurative impressions, one finds him very attached to his naturalistic representation of human life. For instance, take his woman-pigeon series, which is considered his first best – a well-composed and thought-provoking creation towards understanding human life and its relationship with nature. In this series, both conceptually and aesthetically, Jamil Naqsh seems to concentrate on two figures – the woman and the pigeon, and finds them synonymous. Because, for him, the woman is the most beautiful creation of Allah and the pigeon represents all that a woman holds dear – beauty and essence of beauty.
Characteristically looking at his stylized figure of woman, sometime one may think that Jamil Naqsh avoids working on curvaceous charms of female anatomy. But, no, it’s not so. He works on them too, but, only according to the demand of his subject matter. He doesn’t see woman as an object of pleasure. He conceptualizes woman as the most natural and modest symbol of the circle of life and love. In this regard, his ‘Mother and Child’ series leaves lasting impressions on the viewers mind and touches their heart and soul.
Through the symbol of pigeon, he highlights the cultural environment of the motherland (dharti maan). His symbol becomes more attractive, peaceful, innocent and at the same time more saint-like.
The third important character in Jamil Naqsh’s figurative paintings is the horse. Conceptually this character can always assume thoughtful connotations. However, ultimately, it becomes the symbol of power.
Professionally too, Jamil Naqsh is an eminent exponent of contemporary Pakistani art. Confidently he uses his artistic skills to execute his humanistic ideas and they are at once innovative, representational, readable and fascinating. He doesn’t seem to restrict himself solely to the East or the West. His humanistic manifesto allows him to go beyond his geo-political boundaries and study human life. As a result he finds himself more enlightened, determined, devoted and enthusiastic in highlighting his point of view about humanity. For instance, after thoroughly going through oriental and occidental cultures, on painting surface, he bridges the divide.
This stylistic success enables him to work, as he has ambitiously wanted to do: art for the sake oflife. Giving equal importance to both (art and life), whatever he has up to now expressed visually through symbolic use of figures, layer by layer of sensational textures, representational hues, sensible linear endeavours and suggestive compositions, establishes him as a figurative expressionist artist of master level signature. Working in his signature style, from start to finish in every painting, he seems to move towards understanding different aspects of physical and metaphysical languages/concepts of beauty, love and peace.
Importantly, at the time of expressing his insightful personal vision of the world in art, Jamil Naqsh has never denied his socio-cultural background and identity. Loaded with reality-oriented romantic meanings, his symbolic impression has always depicted humanistic sensations of his dreams and the world on micro and macro levels. This is the reason why his art provokes a variety of responses. Questions arise. How can one go back to the nature? What’s nature and its essence? What kind of changes can it bring in one’s life? What will be the materialistic sacrifices? Why should one become part of the world, which is called primitive now? And if he joins it again, how will it be fruitful? Like a moralist i.e. the story teller, he figuratively portrays ‘life of his choice’. Jamil Naqsh suggestively highlights his expressionistic art in all that he thinks can be helpful in understanding his naturalistic concepts about human life.
For Jamil Naqsh, there’s a great difference between inspiration and all alternatives of imitation. He is mainly inspiredby the art of Haji Muhammad Sharif, Shakir Ali, Amodeo Modigliani, Ali Imam and Marino Marini. Ali Imam explains what this means: “In his study of modern painters, he was fascinated by the horses that Marino Marini painted. Painters and poets have a tradition of paying homage to masters in their discipline. Jamil Naqsh in his humility, did a series of painting entitled ‘Homage to Marino Marini ‘. But in doing so, he did not lift any element from Marini’s imagery. Marino Marini was only a stimulus; the outcome was Jamil’s very own. Before embarking on this project Naqsh made hundreds of studies, creating symbols for use in his paintings.
Jamil Naqsh doesn’t feel uneasy in using any medium on any surface.
His figurative and calligraphic paintings are masterpieces of both traditional and modern techniques. At the same time, he continues to seek new ways of expression.