En plein air is a French expression, which means in the open air, and is explicitly used to epitomise the act of painting outdoors. It was the French Impressionists such as Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro that supported en plein air painting in the 1880s.The paintings created by these artists were captured directly from nature and permeated with the feeling of being in the open air. Soon this form of painting became central to Impressionism especially when Impressionist artists became interested in the influence of changing light in the outdoors.
In the same way, in the northern most part of Denmark in the area of Skagen, a group of Scandinavian artists called the Skagen painters began painting en plein air following the French Impressionists. It was the scenery and quality of light that attracted these artists to this particular area where the fisherman was a common subject for the Skagen painters.
Subsequently, a leading Lahore-based painter Ghulam Mustafa whose solo exhibition titled, ‘Kaleidoscope of light’ at Islamabad’s Gallery 6 portrays his footsteps in being part of the en plein air group. Mustafa is also a receiver of the President’s Award for Pride of Performance.
In this particular exhibition, he has exposed sunlight, atmosphere, texture and a feeling of belonging using oils and pastels on his surfaces. The viewer is at peace while gazing upon prospering landscapes, flourishing rural life, lush greenery, the hustle and bustle of everyday life and fragments of old architecture from the artist’s dwelling city of Lahore.
The freedom of painting outside the studio helps capture the ever-changing light and shadows of surrounding beauty and splendour. Scouting out a suitable location to be able to find what inspires Mustafa is evident in each displayed piece. In several pieces the portrayal of being a prominent artist of the School of Punjab landscapes, which was first, instigated by the legendary Khalid Iqbal becomes a remarkable existence.
Through Mustafa’s paintings he induces the wonder and joy of a world in which hope and magnificence exist through trees, hills, blue skies and brightly lit landscapes. In Lahore, the city he loves, the city, which is his home, he shares with the viewers the mystic effects of light. The light generates innumerable configurations on the areas it falls on while astounding the observer’s eyes as from shadowed lanes and hidden alleyways they observe passerby’s dispersing in sunlight.
Aside from this Mustafa has painted the habitual life symbolic to Lahore such as kites flying, he knows where the teashops and roadside restaurants are situated and paints them with devoutness and enthusiasm. It is as if the viewer is experiencing Lahore as a consequence of Mustafa’s paintings through the architecture, the old city of Lahore in all its glory and the people living their day-to-day lives.
Mustafa’s paintings are nothing less than a visual pleasure. The impact and brilliance of his calling is found in the pulchritude in Pakistan especially within Lahore, which he devotedly shares with viewers who appreciate what he does.