What makes Nahid Raza, one of our illustrious artists, different from most of her colleagues is that she reinvents herself from time to time. It’s not a conscious effort. It comes from within. Even her harshest critic would concede that she doesn’t become stale or stereotype. Proof, if proof be needed, is the exhibition of her 26 works at Canvas Gallery.
She has, for the first time, explored the male anatomy, which comes in as a surprise because in the past women, clothed or otherwise, dominated her works. Someone at the exhibition reminds her of the statement that she gave to the press a few years ago that there is nothing more attractive than a female body. “Yes, I did say that and I haven’t changed my mind. But drawing the contours of a man’s form, his muscles in particular, is a fascinating experience too, which I realised when one day I decided to draw a human figure on canvas. I had not decided on the gender of the human I had planned to draw. It happened unconsciously,” replied Nahid.
While her paintings – acrylic on canvas – are more colourful than the ones she painted in the recent past, her drawings with knife on canvas are unique in so far as the artist is concerned. She has never done anything of the kind ever before.
They are all interesting studies of male anatomy in different postures. One can’t help taking a second look at a painting titled ‘Sorrow’ in this genre. It shows a crestfallen man with his head buried behind his arms. Interestingly, she has been showing grief-stricken women in the past but this is the first time that a man appears helpless. “It is now men’s turn. Sorrow can afflict anyone,” she said.
In one of her paintings birds have made a re-appearance after so many years.
There are birds in cages and there are birds flying all around a woman. One feels that the painting is autobiographical. The birds in cages represent Nahid of yesteryear. They perhaps project the period when she was a single mother and had to bring up her children with a lot of difficulties.
Now her two kids are happily married. She has no responsibilities. The birds flying around the woman are free just as Nahid is free today. She paints for her pleasure and in the process makes a decent living.
Nahid Raza has displayed her work after quite some time in her home town. In between her exhibitions were held in Islamabad, Bradford and London. The current exhibition will continue till the 12th.—Asif Noorani