Highlighting old buildings and cultural life
In the early post 1947 decades, the artists in Pakistan adopted Modernism not as perpetuation of the First World domination but as a metaphor for change and economic freedom. The society was no longer being viewed in stereotypes or idealised images, but as an evolving nation faced with the challenges of transition.
The art that emerged from the studios of the Modernists, because of its economically advantaged status, came to dominate the national art scene by the 1960s. The art of the East Pakistani (now Bangladesh) painters had a tremendous impact on their counterparts in Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi and Peshawar, who had yet to reach that mature understanding of the discipline. Artists such as Zainul Abedin had already bridged the gulf between folk art and contemporary art.
Among the distinguished Pakistani contemporary painters, Ajaz Anwar is one of them and the painter was a gold medalist at Punjab University and he completed his M.A in Fine Arts from Punjab University. Later, he went to teach at National College of Arts Lahore. His watercolour paintings show the grandeur of the old buildings and the cultural life in Lahore.
Born in Ludhiana in 1946, his father was a cartoonist who apparently had stirred his passion from childhood and from whom he drew his inspiration. After obtaining his M.A. in Fine Arts and a Gold medal in 1967 from Punjab University, Lahore, he completed his Ph.D in Muslim architecture, in Turkey in 1978 and proceeded to do a course on Conservation of Cultural Property at UNESCO, Rome in 1977. From 1972 he has been lecturing until he became Professor and Director of Art Gallery NCA, Lahore to date.
The old buildings of Lahore are the main theme of his paintings. He has tried to preserve those buildings in his paintings which are replaced by new style buildings or they are crumbling. These are the buildings of old Lahore; not all are historical, but common homes of common people are the centre of his attention. Natural lively colours bring the buildings to life.
Although buildings are the main theme of his paintings and people are just there to make a normal life but the characters he used in his paintings are the quintessential of daily life in Lahore or Punjab. The characters are faceless but they represent the common people found in the bazaars: A Tonga rider, women walking in the bazaar, children playing, milkman, old people talking, and sellers of all kinds.
Kites are almost always present in his paintings. His main themes are common homes or buildings and on the roof of every building there is a kite lover and on the sky above there are lot of kites colouring the sky.
With close observation we find a detailed life in his paintings. A woman is peeping from the window or behind the curtain, a cock is searching for food bits in the garbage.
"In my paintings, I highlight the parts of Lahore that must be preserved. I remove skyscrapers and instead incorporate tongas and sweetmeat shops," he said in an interview. The main focus of his paintings are not human figures. "The human figures are only used to bring these crumbling buildings to life. People are not important aspects of my art because they are born and reborn whereas these buildings, once destroyed, will be lost forever."
Ajaz Anwar leads Lahore Conservation Society and doing his utmost to preserve the Lahore as it was and preserving Lahore's heritage has become a personal crusade. He was the recipient of the President's "Pride of Performance in Painting" in 1997. He has exhibited his works in different places---Lahore, Ankara, Rawalpindi, Istanbul, Rome, Kampala, Chandigarh, Delhi and London.
The writer is a freelance contributor.