“The titles of the paintings are inspired by the sacred nature of the American West,” elaborated Mumtaz Khan Mumtaz during an exhibition of his work titled ‘West’ at the Koel Gallery, Karachi. He’s travelled extensively across the Midwestern and Southwestern United States and observed sacred Indian practices and rituals there. “There has been a complete transformation over the last 150 years after the white colonizers came and fought to eliminate the indigenous people, gradually replacing them,” he added.
His landscapes ‘Crazy Men in Summer Night’, ‘Bear Lodge’ and ‘Jalwa: Day’ introduce the use of symmetry that morphs into scenarios with depth and an organic distribution of elements. What emerges is a tranquil arrangement that appeases the soul.
“I maintain a focal point in my works which is akin to the heart,” elaborates Mumtaz, “I use traditional techniques to depict contemporary history, contrary to some artists, who under western influence, tend to pursue photorealism, renaissance and baroque techniques.”
Murad Khan Mumtaz’s work focuses on spreading the need for peace by shedding light on the suffering of the Native Americans
His symbolic paintings titled ‘Winter’, ‘Summer’, ‘Holy Well’, ‘Kiva’ and ‘Revelation’ serve as a pleasant respite among his other skillfully rendered works. The motifs depicted in these paintings are native to the sacred tenements of the Native Americans.
The colours of Mumtaz’s paintings are unquestionably unique. “For over four years, I have researched pre-colonial recipes used in producing different colors from naturally-occurring materials,” explained the artist, “Some examples are indigo, sindhoor, gold and cinnabar”. He also uses the best quality of paper used for wasli making. “There is only one surviving family in Rajasthan that is producing and supplying genuine handmade paper for miniaturists,” says Mumtaz, “Commercially available papers are not suitable for such paintings”. The artist opts to compose and paint in the Pahari technique which employs flatter, brighter colors with a more simplified rendering as compared to the Mughul style.
Mumtaz is an alumnus of the National College of Arts and Columbia University in New York City. He is currently doing his PhD in ‘South Asian art history’ at the University of Virginia, USA.
‘West’ is being exhibited at the Koel Gallery from September 20th to October 6th 2016
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, October 2nd, 2016