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
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.