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 Thursday, December 01, 2011
A lesson in artistic realism
Shoukat Iqbal Khattak
Muhammad Arshad Khan, commonly known as MAK among his friends, is popular for his technique of mixing oil paints with turpentine. His paintings reflect the old masters’ works, but, at the same time, he also has his unique style.
As such, he has gained a wide circle of fans. His sketches create the illusion that the objects depicted actually exist, and is an extreme example of artistic realism. MAK’s art work portrays his convictions on issues pertaining to children, development and environment. It is the heart-felt sensitivity, empathy, keen observation and an abounding faith in humanity that lends distinction to his artworks. Much of his time is given towards teaching younger artists at an organisation named Ranrraa, a Pashto word meaning light.
MAK was born in Swabi, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, on February 16, 1972. He grew up in a carpenter’s family and got early education in his native village. In 1993, he came to Karachi for higher education and got admission to Karachi University’s Sociology Department. In Karachi, he became a regular visitor of the Arts Council and places where art exhibitions were held. He learned a lot from well-known artist, the late Bashir Mirza (BM). MAK has been honoured with a number of prestigious awards for his contribution to the world of art.
In an exclusive chat with The News, MAK said that his art side came all from within. He never went to an academy or the like for arts, except learning some course of arts from Bashir Mirza. I believe that man’s soul is the architect of history and that art is the manifestation of man’s soul and reflection of human identity and art materialized the deepest strata of man’s life. Art is unbounded and recognizes no constraints.
MAK said that his paintings were presented in exhibitions held in Greece, the US and Istanbul. He also took part in many exhibitions in Lahore, Karachi, and Peshawar. His paintings are present on different walls of the Shaukat Khanum Hospital, Lahore, and Islamia College, Peshawar. His two most popular paintings are also present in the Geography Department, University of Zurich, Switzerland.
From his teens, MAK actively used to participate in social activities at his colonial Hujra (Pukhtun Community Centre). Due to his social developments from mosque as a Muslim, from Hujra as a Pukhtun, from Karachi University as a sociologist, from a courier company as an administrator and from BM as an artist, MAK is always anxious to repay society. For this purpose, he has organised his social welfare activities through Ranrraa Trust and Pukhtun Thinkers Forum.
MAK said that Ranrraa started working in 2006 in the suburbs of Karachi. This area is mostly inhabited by the Pukhtun labourers working in nearby factories. He said that Ranrraa was above racial differences and provided a free environment to serve the students through counselling, study tours, group studies, academic and extra-curricular activities. It has its own reading hall which remains open round the clock.
MAK said that he tries to portray the importance of the humanity’s role in his paintings, tracing the historic changes through times. “Deeply inspired by light and line, I initially conceived subtle/exotic shapes on palm. Since then transcending socio-political and geographical confinement, I created forms representing spirituality and philosophical contemplation transferred from my imagined visions to the canvas.”
Art enthusiasts, he says, discover spontaneous schools of thought in his style. Still he says, he’s unsure of what movement should attribute his art to, but says he knows that the more the viewer examines his work the more they discover.