'Stunning’ is probably a justifiable word to define Hafiz Pakzad’s creations. In any case, that is the feeling one has while viewing his paintings at a recent show in Asnieres-sur-Seine, just across the river from Paris as well as inspiration to legendary painters such as Vincent van Gogh, Paul Signac or Georges Seurat.
Born in 1955 in the Bamiyan province in Afghanistan, Pakzad has been living and painting in France for the last 37 years. Though his fascination for Impressionist and post-Impressionist art naturally attracted him to Asnieres-sur-Seine (which is also his home now), his works cannot be described as copies of famous paintings — they are his own assiduous creations with a discreet homage paid, here and there, to the geniuses of the past.
Pakzad has no hesitation in admitting that many chefs-d’oeuvres by the inventor of the Impressionist movement, Claude Monet, or by the master of light-rays Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, are his inspirations. But one doesn’t fail to notice the originality and inventiveness of his own style.
Just to take two examples among so many, ‘Atmosphere’ and ‘Lady & The Bridge’ are certainly his unostentatious tributes to Seurat and van Gogh, even if you only notice the obscurely refined hints in the far background of the paintings, while all the front elements, such as the lake with floating leaves and in the other painting the woman’s sitting style, her dress, her room decor and the shadows around her, are all Pakzad’s own minutely sketched innovations. Similar dreamy but realistic brush strokes can be noticed in works such as ‘View From My Window’ or ‘Looking Down At The Sea’ or even ‘House Under Pine Trees.’
Pakzad says he has always rejected the idea of painting with the intention of making money or of turning himself into a celebrity. “Artistic visions are dreams but also a torture until one transforms them onto canvases or sculptures. These works should be the poetical descriptions of what is going on in the artist’s heart. As far as I am concerned, once this is done, I am the happiest man in the world.”
Hafiz Pakzad’s paintings are assiduous creations that pay a discreet homage to the geniuses of the past
These dreams could include childhood memories as well. One of his paintings of the gigantic statues of Buddha, that were destroyed by the Islamic fundamentalists during the Afghan war was bought by the Guimet Museum of Paris which specialises in Oriental art. Today, it is part of Guimet’s permanent collection.
The artist is equally fascinated by the pointillist technique to transform his visions on the canvas. This requires a perfect expertise of the handling of crayons and pointed, sharp-edged brushes, not to mention days and nights of work.
Apart from symbolism and surrealism, a vast number of Pakzad’s paintings which include portraits of children as well, never miss the opportunity of forwarding his message often through an elegant sense of humour. His ‘Afghan Mona Lisa’ is certainly one of such works, which is simultaneously a depiction of the artist’s childhood memories as well as an homage to Leonardo da Vinci.
The Afghanistan-born artist says he got the idea of becoming a painter as a teenager charmed by the hills, trees and torrents of his native valley. When his dreams were disturbed by the Afghan war, Pakzad moved to Paris in 1982 and quickly joined the Catherine Feff Studio, that specialises in the restoration of the decors of historical buildings. One of his earliest challenges was the rejuvenation of the halls of the famous Hotel Ritz in Paris, a familiar meeting place for geniuses such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso and so many others before the Second World War.
“Hafiz Pakzad Show” is being displayed at Delage Cultural Centre in Asnières-sur-Seine near Paris from January 5 to February 11, 2020
The writer is an art critic based in Paris. ZafMasud@gmail.com
Published in Dawn, EOS, January 26th, 2020