Art work: Celebrating dreams and imagination

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Rural in vision, Syed Zain-ul-Abideen
Rural in vision, Syed Zain-ul-Abideen

The dynamic relationships between art galleries, the artists, private collectors and public institutions play an essential role in today’s art world. Galleries support emerging artists by funding their production, introducing them to the art world and helping to shape and develop their careers.

Well-established artists are generally represented by gallerists who over time have built an extensive international audience for the artist, both through their shows in their own spaces and by promoting their work worldwide. There are contemporary art galleries, publicly funded art organisations and artist-run spaces for exhibiting artworks. Contemporary artists can get support through prizes, awards and grants aside from selling their work.

Recently Gallery 6 in Islamabad held the first ever art award by any art gallery in Pakistan known as the ‘Arjumand Painting Award’, which accentuates the calibre of the classical art form of painting.


The ‘Arjumand Painting Award’ emphasises the calibre of the classical art form of painting


Through the efforts of the Gallery’s owner and curator, Dr Arjumand Faisel, the Gallery received more than 80 paintings from across the country where the eligibility criterion was that the competition was only for Pakistani citizens between the ages of 25 and 40.

Five leading artists and critics moulded the professional committee namely Meher Afroz, Aasim Akhtar, R.M. Naeem, Sana Arjumand and Akram Dost. Judgement was done through a three-step process; first 50 paintings were short-listed, after which each judge selected five paintings without any interaction with each other. A list of short-listed paintings by all of them was prepared. The third and final step was that the judges were given this list and were requested to give a score to each of the short-listed paintings again without any interaction. The scores were compared and the winners were decided.

Untitled, Kiran Saleem
Untitled, Kiran Saleem

The selection was based on concept, creativity, execution and composition which make up the fundamental elements of a splendid painting.

While stressing on the relevance of painting, when the painter converts something from the real world into a painting it has to function within the painting. Everything is a form of geometry on a flat surface. The wonderful thing about paint is that it still retains a sense of its temporality, so one makes a fluid mark, which then solidifies. The gesture the painter makes to place the mark is held, as is the observation and the thought that prompted it.

This is a common feature among the three winners of the Arjumand Painting Award. The first prize went to Kiran Saleem who completed her BFA from the Government College University in Faisalabad; the second prize went to Saba Zahid who accomplished her BFA from the National College of Art, Lahore and the third prize went to Syed Zainul-Abideen who achieved his BFA from Beaconhouse National University, Lahore.

Saleem’s ‘Untitled’ painting conveys a feeling of the Impressionistic and Realistic movement where the narrative between the painting itself and the canvas is surreal. Her innovative essence lies in her skill, technique and composition.

While she looked away, Saba Zahid
While she looked away, Saba Zahid

Zahid’s haunting image ‘While she looked away’ is perhaps nostalgic of a memorable occurrence. Her use of colour and the interplay between dark and light are both visually and aesthetically pleasing. There is a sense of mystery and subtlety in her work.

Abideen’s ‘Rural in vision’ is a mesh of transparency and luminosity. A correlation lies between each layer of his painted surface, which gives it the radiant quality it has.

These pieces work towards a very specific and concrete image. These constructed images have been defined in such a way to become legible, coherent and understandable. There are many points at which the lives and careers of visual artists diverge and one of them is how they are honoured and what those honours mean.

The Arjumand Painting Award is one such award which is worthy of praise.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, May 31st, 2015

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