Reinventing art

Published Apr 12, 2014 06:42pm
Miniature series on the elephant depicting human strength and resilience by Lahore-based artist Kausar Iqbal. -Photo courtesy Dr Arif Mahmood
Miniature series on the elephant depicting human strength and resilience by Lahore-based artist Kausar Iqbal. -Photo courtesy Dr Arif Mahmood
Miniature series on the elephant depicting human strength and resilience by Lahore-based artist Kausar Iqbal. -Photo courtesy Dr Arif Mahmood
Miniature series on the elephant depicting human strength and resilience by Lahore-based artist Kausar Iqbal. -Photo courtesy Dr Arif Mahmood
Miniature series on the elephant depicting human strength and resilience by Lahore-based artist Kausar Iqbal. -Photo courtesy Dr Arif Mahmood
Miniature series on the elephant depicting human strength and resilience by Lahore-based artist Kausar Iqbal. -Photo courtesy Dr Arif Mahmood
Miniature series on the elephant depicting human strength and resilience by Lahore-based artist Kausar Iqbal. -Photo courtesy Dr Arif Mahmood
Miniature series on the elephant depicting human strength and resilience by Lahore-based artist Kausar Iqbal. -Photo courtesy Dr Arif Mahmood

How does one reinvent art that was perfected centuries ago? Kausar Iqbal, an artist from Lahore has exquisitely managed just that.

I had first travelled to Lahore as a child and the walled city, known for its rich cultural heritage, had fascinated me then as well. But this time, a chance encounter with Kausar opened my eyes to a whole new dimension of our preserving the dynastic Mughal legacy.

As I learnt and interacted with Kausar more I found myself drawn not just to his artistic talent but also his personality which is an equally intriguing reflection of the integrity and courage he portrays in his art.

Despite his conservative roots and strict upbringing in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Kausar pursued his love for Mughal art wholeheartedly. With a Masters in Miniature Art from National College of Arts Kausar was able to disseminate an integral part of our history through his paintings.

  Kausar Iqbal at work
Kausar Iqbal at work

Miniature Art hails from Persia and Turkey during a period where Muslims were empowered and ustaads (mentor) were honoured. This form of art is extremely fine and detailed, and during the reign of Mughal Emperor, Jalaluddin Akbar, Ustaad Mir Abdusamad developed this form. In fact, in his youth Akbar studied the Miniature form under Ustaad Abdusamad himself. It was during this era that Mughal painting truly evolved; mixing Persian direction with Indian tradition.

There are four schools of Miniature Art that rose to prominence during this time. They include the Persian, the Mughal, the Pahari and the Kangra schools of art.

Miniature Art provided a transparent lens into everyday society allowing the observer to fully grasp the artist’s depiction. The work always embraced elements of naturalism and realism in Mughal art and was never restricted to any particular religion or community rather encompassed all aspects of humanity.

It was this profound and unadulterated love of humanity displayed in Miniature work that inspired Kausar Iqbal to reinvent Miniature paintings. Kausar realised that the best way to communicate his upbringing and surroundings was through art. To do so he utilises very specific techniques which preserve the integrity of Miniature Art while allowing him to paint his story.

For Miniature work he utilises watercolors, siyah qalam, gudrang, neemrang, and mix medium. The siyah qalam is a basic technique where paintings are made with black watered-down paint. This is a traditional Mughal Miniature technique where details are spread on paper using minute feather strokes known as pardakht.

Gudrang is similar to gouache but white pigment is added in order to give the work a more opaque appearance. Neemrang along with gudrang is a more advanced technique and literally means half-colour. Kausar remains extremely loyal to the preservation of these techniques.

When Kausar lost several of his family members in an earthquake he channeled his grief into a creative burst of art and painted a great and powerful series on elephants, depicting human resilience and strength.

Another series with focus on the dragon, symbolises the link between Asian and Indian spiritualism.


A gallery of Kausar's work:


Paying homage to the strength of Pakistani women, he launched the burqa series which speaks of centuries of subjugation by our patriarchal society. The fortitude of women and their indispensable role in society is apparent in his intention and his work.

Kausar is currently working on a Sufi saint series which will highlight their mysticism, religious fervour, and allure.

While Kausar’s work demonstrates a religious aspect of his life, it also incorporates dimensions that question his orthodox beliefs. To stay true to his artistic self Kausar's work proudly displays his uninhibited soul and clear disregard for any self-consciousness or barriers.

After countless conversations with him, I grew enamored with many of his ideas and thoughts. These conversations resulted in several commissioned pieces which now enchant and attract visitors at my residence. In a time where our cultural identity is continuously threatened, Kausar’s work has allowed me to retain a strong connection to our culture.

For this I am eternally grateful.


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Arif Mahmood is currently a medical doctor residing in the US with varied interests in South East Asian art, classical music, photography, and literature.


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments (18) (Closed)


ali osmani
Apr 12, 2014 08:54pm

mughal art reached its peak in the reign of jehangir ! i cant find a word to praise the NAFASAT, purity and soul in mughal art! Kausar iqbal should be acknowledged for saving our heritage in modern times ! meanwhile i would thank Dr Arif for such an informative article! good job! stay blessed!

BRR
Apr 12, 2014 11:09pm

Good writeup on an accomplished artist. Still the reporter / writer cannot refrain from using codewords - "muslim empowerment" - to me it means "at the expense of non-muslim people". Clearly muslim Mughals spent time and energy and resources to promote Islam, their won foreign cultures, at the expense of domestic sensibilities and indegenous / domestic artist.

No one in Pakistan reflects on what was lost, what was destroyed, as they celebrate thier Islamic conversion and conques by foreign powers.

Indian
Apr 12, 2014 11:31pm

Very nice paintings. Well done, Kausar.

Ally Adnan
Apr 13, 2014 09:21am

A really nice piece about the very talented Kausar Iqbal.

Mariam Mahmood
Apr 13, 2014 09:35am

Great read on Kausar's work and the beautiful history of Mughal art.

Shehzia Khan
Apr 13, 2014 10:18am

An interesting article about Kausar's work and Mughal Art history !

Sara Niazi
Apr 14, 2014 12:27am

Intricacy intimated with mysticism.

Sahar Ali
Apr 14, 2014 01:56am

This article has opened my eyes to the world of miniature art and how deep and fascinating it can be. I want to thank the author for an amazing article. Hope to read more articles by this author.

FIZA
Apr 14, 2014 03:30am

Coming from a family of avid collectors of Mughal and Chughtai art, it's heartfelt to read how Kausar Iqbal channeled his life's tragedy into rich, exemplary art. Such skillful artists need to be lauded for creating finite beauty from the ashes of sadness and despair.

It's also vital to support and fully appreciate artists such as Kausar who diligently master Miniature Art by taking it to a whole new dimension. One will hope that his creations will reach many Pakistanis, whether at home or abroad as is the case with Dr. Arif.

Sincere thanks to Dawn, the artist and writer for giving us a fascinating perspective into the unique creations of artist Kausar Iqbal. Please keep offering these positive stories about richly talented Pakistanis who are the jewels of our society.

Arif M
Apr 14, 2014 04:40am

Kausar is a wonderful budding artist. His humility and kindness is noteworthy. Also, I dont feel like Mughal art was catering to one particular religion or injected with bias. Ultiamtely I wish Kausar continued success and growth. Also I hope that all art and music can find a safe niche within Pakistan to prosper and grow.

Sarah
Apr 14, 2014 08:38am

Brilliant piece by a brilliant doctor. Its amazing how someone immersed in science is enchanted with the arts. Hope to read more articles in the future!

Salmaan Muneer
Apr 14, 2014 09:08am

A well-composed article that sheds light on the inspiration and motives of an artist. Mughal culture is truly fascinating and the history is as profound as it is intriguing. We should all work to support this artistry and never lose sight of our common past.

kausar iqbal
Apr 14, 2014 07:32pm

thank you arif mahmood

Maqsood Ali
Apr 14, 2014 09:20pm

Great Job Done mashllah - Impressed bro - Keep publishing such productive articles - God bless you :)

Salma
Apr 14, 2014 11:18pm

Insightful article on Kausar Iqbal's artistic talent and the history of miniature art. it is eye-opening, informative and a refreshing read. I like how the artist preserves this particular form of art but also incorporates his own stories as well as others to give a good balance. Thank you for writing about this.

Shuaa-i-Ummeed
Apr 14, 2014 11:30pm

Beautiful

Azfar Niazi
Apr 15, 2014 01:39am

Very well written. Amazing stuff!

Thanks so much for reviving the culture, history, art, and so many other things at the same time.

Aisha
Apr 15, 2014 09:28am

Preserving age-old art techniques and showcasing it in this medium really helps shed light on our cultural heritage. I learned something new today - great read and wishing much success to Mr. Iqbal!