“Once Asim saw a dog’s carcass under the Clifton bridge. For days, he would go back to the same spot to observe the decomposition of the dog and make drawings of it – as though he tried to make death more digestible,” said Nafisa Rizvi, the editor of Rebel Angel, while recounting anecdotes of the profoundly passionate and well informed artist.
Rebel Angel is a monograph of the works of the late painter, graffiti artist, activist and muralist Asim Butt (1978-2010).
The opening exhibition and auction for Asim’s work at Canvas gallery showcased some of his drawings and paintings. Many of which dealt with themes on existentialist paradoxes, gender and sexuality seen through his perspectives of Karachi during his time here.
“Asim’s work was about the world beyond black and white, it was the greys he was always discovering,” said Nafisa.
Asim Butt was also the founder of the Stuckist movement in Karachi as he sought to create art with a spiritual meaning.
Marjorie Hussain who spoke in memory and celebration of Asim at the event added how “He had a lot of feelings and sometimes they just spilled over.”
Described as emotionally volatile, diverse and disparate by Nafisa Rizvi, it is not surprising to learn that Asim was always different as a child and growing up.
His mother, Amna Zahid recalled how Asim used to dress up as a clown for birthday parties, just to shock people.
But she was quick to add fond memories of her son, the best of which, she claimed was receiving a painting of half of his face as a present for her 50th birthday.
“He said, this was him giving me, half of himself,” said Amna.
It is a pity we are not able to share more time and work from the talented and passionate, Asim Butt as his works compiled in the monograph are mostly unfinished and untitled. But indeed, there is no doubt that his work is a stirring, thoughtful inquiry of the Karachi he saw and lived through. — Text by Taahira Booya and Photos by Asif Umar.