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Muhammad Javed
Muhammad Javed

Painter, town planner and art curator Muhammad Javed has a prominent place in the art scene of Lahore.

Painting for more than three decades, he encouraged and groomed young artists and provided them with space to showcase their works which commercial galleries usually refuse to display.

Born in Sheikhupura in 1942, he is among the first batch of the National College of Arts, Lahore, graduates. He feels himself lucky to be groomed professionally by legends like Shakir Ali, Ustad Haji Sharif, Prof Spononburgh, Prof James Worn, and Japanese ceramist Prof Takitta.

“Throughout the years of studies, Shakir Ali kept our works away from exhibitions. We had never thought of selling our art; his intention was to keep us away from distractions and focus on the skills and creativity only,” he recalls.

Javed is very unhappy with the existing popular trends in the art institutions.

“We were trained in art institutions, made by the British colonial rulers, influenced by Western art historians and techniques of Western Old Masters.

“This is depressing that we are teaching the same outdated and biased syllabi, even after six decades,” he regrets.

“Neither the medium nor is the narrative local. This is really unfortunate that what we are teaching our kids is only a visual jugglery and imitation of contemporary Western artists.”

Javed thinks that an artist must be satisfied with his/her own works and extract pleasure in working for himself/herself only.

“While working to please the client or following the market trends, you fall into another category of work. One must be very conscious of it and strictly keep one’s own commercial works at a visible distance from one’s creative expressions,” he suggests.

Muhammad Javed has spent a major part of his life in Lahore and is very passionate about the city, its culture, language and architect. He has played an active role with various groups, working to protect environment of the city and its architectural heritage.

With seven solo shows to his credit, he is working on a new series of paintings for the last couple of years. These works are an important visual record of contemporary Lahore, an overcrowded city going through the worst kind of traffic chaos. Construction works are being executed after demolishing the old buildings and displacing people, living in their habitats for generations.

“I conceived the idea of painting this series during the foggy winters last year while driving daily on the Canal Road from Johar Town to my office at The Mall,” he explains.

“I can’t paint only the beauty; I paint the subjects with a strong narrative that punches the viewer. It’s a responsibility of the artist to honestly express and document the realities of his times.

“The social issues must be highlighted through visual arts and literature but without compromising the aesthetics,” Javed says.

In most of these works, he reflects a good command on medium. Using palette knife technique, he has gradually built these visuals with thick strokes of oil paint. Despite rough and bold strokes, he has comfortably depicted the delicate details.

Javed works with a wide range of colours, but the mellow tones dominate the canvasses. His mature skills, strong sense of design and beautiful compositions transform ordinary chaotic scenes into a visual treat for eyes.

Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2016