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Pop art: Landscape symphonies

May 24, 2015
Lahore Fort
Lahore Fort

The Punjab Landscape Movement, initiated by Khalid Iqbal in the ’50s, has inspired powerful artists and retains its popularity today.

A former student of Khalid Iqbal from the National College of Art, Lahore, Ghulam Mustafa along with his class fellows Bashir Ahmed and Iqbal Hussain, would accompany their mentor outdoors to set up their easels and explore the surrounding space, striving to describe a link between objects and visual ideas.

Bashir Ahmed became a famed contemporary miniaturist but echoes of landscape were often found in his work. Iqbal Hussain eventually focused on the people and area of his birth, but Mustafa continued to follow in the footsteps of his teacher and to immortalise the beauty of diverse regions of the country.


Ghulam Mustafa focuses on realistically depicting the inner beauties of nature


In an extensive exhibition mounted at the Clifton Art Gallery, Karachi, the artist’s beautiful, narrative work combined the subtle treatment of the foreground of the composition with attention to the subtleties of light on solid objects. It was a pleasure to meet again the well-known artists such as Mashkoor Raza, Ghalib Baqar and others, trendsetters of their times who had turned up to greet the artist and appreciate the artistry of his paintings. In his work Mustafa is focused on realistically depicting the inner beauties of nature with a ‘plein-air’ theme; and in contrast, the historic interest of Lahore.

Sunehri Masjid
Sunehri Masjid

In the series displayed one discovered misty mountains, reflections in water, and masses of sunlit flowers with myriad shades of leaves. Gazing at the work is a meditative experience, balm to senses disturbed by the violence of the times, and offering a sense of assurance that nature with its seasons will survive.

As a painter of landscapes, Mustafa takes inspiration from expeditions to the unspoiled regions of the country. He has been a part of the local art movement and has contributed in its development. For many years he has been a committee member of the Artist’s Association of the Punjab, and in his career spent as the director of the Punjab Art’s Councils, he initiated programmes throughout the Arts Councils of the region. When the National Art Gallery was functioning, Ghulam Mustafa was a dedicated member of the Executive Programmes Committee.

Among the numerous awards he has received is the National Prize in the genre of Landscape from the 7th National Arts Exhibition in 1996; and in 2002 the President’s Pride of Performance award. In Lahore he is a recognised figure where he has often set up his easel and painted his favourite subjects, the ancient architecture and historic sights.

He has painted the Wazir Khan Masjid, the Sunehri Musjid and the bazaars in many moods. Passers-by were often interested in large canvases hauled up to the roof of Iqbal Hussain’s Cocoo’s Den, where Mustafa has painted the Badshahi Masjid and its surrounds in all seasons. Though Mustafa is a genre painter, he is in many ways an Impressionist concerned with effects of colour and atmospheric circumstances. He is a painter whose work will be appreciated for generations to come.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, May 24th, 2015

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