KHALIL Chistee, a Pakistani artist, is becoming quite a sensation among art lovers in Brooklyn, New York, where he lives with his artist wife Ruby Chistee. Both are graduates of Lahore’s National College of Arts.

Khalil Chistee, tipped by some art experts to become one of the next great artists from the Sub-continent, has taken social media by storm.

Chistee’s body of work speaks for his versatility. He is a painter, calligrapher and a figurative sculptor all rolled into one.

In an interview with Dawn, Chistee observed that “in Pakistan strange things are happening. Comedians are becoming serious commentators while serious people are becoming comedian”.

He questions the distinction between seriousness and levity. “What I mean is that everyone who comes to power pretends to be a saviour, but ends up further damaging the country’s moral fabric.

“In my work I try and address these issues and comment on them in my own way,” Chistee said.

“I am a storyteller. One thing which fascinates me is that everyone wants to become a messiah, but no one can succeed without really going through the grind of hard work.

‘Whenever I work, somehow these thoughts seem to seep into my work without really trying to. These days we keep looking between the lines and always miss the forest for the trees,” the artist observed.

New projects

His next project is a solo show at Karachi’s Sannat gallery in October. He also plans to set up an installation at the city’s zoo to coincide with the Karachi Bienniale. Another event in which his work will feature is an exhibit in Chicago where an artist from Afghanistan and one from Iran will also display their painting.

Chistee believes that art should serve as a vehicle for transformation rather than for decoration, diversion or indoctrination. “Art aims at learning how to cope with life. And it can help develop a deep understanding of your own experiences,”

He lamented that intellectuals in Pakistan had become opinionated and paranoid. “They do not try to understand others’ views.”

Chistee hates being labelled as this or that kind of artist. “I’d like to explore all styles and genre. One is born to be free and not to be enslaved by a rigid thought process in the name of clarity.

“Art is not a religion. There is nothing right or wrong here.”

Khalil Chistee reflects on his life since moving to the United States.

“I was a Pakistani before coming to the US, but after coming to America I became a human being.

“Here I am a part of humanity now. I don’t have just one identity.”

He quoted Mahatma Gandhi to substantiate his point: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2019