There is nothing better than going back towards the roots while, there is nothing worse than cutting off the roots!
Nostalgia is normally considered in maroon sense but one of its shades; homesickness is something that crafts a tender heart and high values of association.
Association with home, association with family, association with friends and association with the institution; all this is what contributes to making of a unique personality, evolved from an ordinary one.
NCA is an institution par excellence, having a history over a hundred and thirty years when it was known as the Mayo School of Arts. It has produced first-rate skills in its generations of students. Eleven years after the partition in 1958, the Mayo School was renamed as the National College of Arts, but it took almost 47 years when few considerate minds felt the nonexistence of a common platform to rejoin the different generations that had qualified from this institution, subsequently on March 24th 2005 NCA Alumni Association was formed. After settling the necessary rules and regulations and registration process, NAA announced its first ever 'Painting Exhibition' at Zahoor al-Akhlaq Gallery on 24th Aug 2007. It became a much awaited event as all eyes were anxious to see a panorama of shades stretched over decades with old and the young painters from the same institution were getting registered to be displayed under the high-wooden roofs of NCA Gallery, now known as the Zahoor al-Akhlaq Gallery, named after a renowned alumnus as well as a reputable teacher of the college.
Prior to the opening of the exhibition, a small gathering of alumni, artists, critics and art-lovers was addressed at Shakir Ali Auditorium by Mr Abd al-Rahman, President NAA, Ms Nazish Ata Ullah, Principal NCA and Mr Khalid Maqbool, Governor Punjab and the chief guest, who later inaugurated the momentous exhibition.
The show comprised of 64 creations by 42 painters including great names like; Bashir Mirza, Saeed Akhtar, Zahoor al-Akhlaq, Ahmed Khan, Muhammad Asif and Muhammad Javed, masters like RM Naeem, Mehboob Ali, Asad Faruki, Kaleem Khan, Ghulam Mustafa were also rubbing shoulders with the very young ones like Ali Kazim, Faisal Asghar, Munazza Rashid, Nadia Rizwan, Mudassar Manzoor, Munazza Baqir, Shireen Bano, Ufaq Ahsan and Zoona Khan. Dr Murtaza Jaferi, Mehmood Alam, and Zulfiqar Ali Zulfi also participated in this first show of its own kind, where Nazish Ata Ulla, the Principal of NCA did contribute with her textured though simple prints.
Although the exhibition was long awaited and much debated, but for a frequent viewer, there were very few canvases, which could be called as new! There was a feeling that one had seen most of the work at one or at other gallery within the span of two to three years, most paintings had been displayed at different galleries of the town and was giving an impression of "Alumni Painting Collection" rather than "Alumni Painting Exhibition". No doubt, it was a treat to watch the work of departed BM (Bashir Mirza) and Zahoor al-Akhlaq, but the new and young artists also put on show their repeatedly exhibited work, which made stronger inkling that only the walls behind the frames were different. Even then, taking into consideration the dispersive attitude of ours as a nation, this exhibition was a landmark as it, at least, amassed painters scattered across the country, and provided art critics and students with the opportunity to have a look on diversity of approaches and techniques, different painters from different eras were blessed with. Interestingly, there were missing, many renowned and famous names who, off and on, kept on exhibiting their work at different galleries, but did not grace this occasion due to reasons best known, either to them or to the management committee of the NCA Alumni Association. Frames that were put on view were also lacking, title of the painting, medium and size that hinted the impulsiveness and the hastiness which might be there behind the scene.
By and large, the show provided few very crafty canvases; Saeed Akhtar flaunted two of his assorted paintings one produced in 1967 and the other in the 21stcentury, showing the class of a genius from early realistic life-size male figure to a stylized and candid portraiture of a nomadic-looking modern women. But the dull and brown shades with variation in tones were the common features in both the paintings putting across the skills of the maestro in creating three-dimensionality, while working in monochromic paints.
A simple and diffused brown canvas with vague geometrical shapes, composed in a closed composition was letting the viewer get acquainted with the balance and craftsmanship the great Zahoor al-Akhlaq was known for. It was the most easy-looking painting of the entire exhibition but the feel created with ease, was not as effortless as it was looking.
Bashir Mirza, an artist, who accomplished international recognition through his creativity and unusual skill which, evolved through years of continuous work and observation. After acquiring mastery in realistic style, in his later years, BM experimented with form and colors; the painting at display was one of those bold and beautiful works shaped in 90s. A portrait in pure Red, Yellow and Green with tinges of Blue was making everybody realize the big BM mark, which earned him the pride and fame across the continents.
Balochistan was not known for its landscape beauty in terms of landscape painting before Kaleem Khan started to record the hazy, obscure and dry mountains as curvaceous horizon behind the meager yet attractive flora of the rocky lands. In this exhibition he came up with more colorful foliage, and for a change, with no mountain behind. But the color composition, created against the earthen color of a triangular soil-patch in the foreground, created a balanced contrast in terms of color and composition, independently.
Ahmed Khan with calligraphy of Arabic scriptures, composed in Yellow Square with maroon and black Hashia around, was something reminding the great tradition of illuminated manuscripts, an art the Persians and Mughals were known, for transmitting it into already existing practice of Sanskrit Manuscripts widespread within the subcontinent.
A Red, two panels red canvas with a little white and fluffy pigeon places on a rock was asking for applauds for a designer's composition who dared to paint. Asad faruki's 'Untitled' in Acrylic was making the atmosphere warmer which was already humid.
Normally in Pakistan, when one utters a word 'woodcut' the second word that comes to mind is 'Mehboob Ali'. Undoubtedly, Mehboob Ali is the survivor of woodcut technique in Pakistan, who through his vision and skill documented the city of Lahore, especially the walled-city with gates, old buildings and historical architectural accomplishments. Other than woodcut, he revamped his sheets with dry pastels, in this exhibition; he displayed his pastel work capturing 'Anarkali Food Street' from Nabha Road. Honestly speaking, the standard, Mehboob has set for himself in woodcut, were not in attendance in his pastels.
Ali Kazim, a young and talented painter came up with his unique rendering of male head, captured from behind. A frame with water based pigments having modest tonality but enough depth to create three-dimensional form, while the detail of subtle neck and head muscles was splendid. His brown tones went from dark to darker without disturbing the eye of the viewer and the frame of the painting.
RM Naeem, who after setting himself up as master of linearity in connection with realistic craftsmanship, has started to grope possibilities in form, forced by emotions and perception. For the last couple of years his endeavors to excavate the reality within the reality had come up with a realistically-stylized technique. In this show, he was all set with his 'Mystic Ritual', a frame explicating monologue.
The show was attended by many, but not by many 'Alumni'!