Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Beautiful Drawings and Paintings of Eqbal Mehdi

Eqbal was born in a small town, Amroha India on 1st April 1946,. He grew up in a family intensely deep-rooted in the arts, Eqbal had a love for drawing from his father, Syed Mir. When he was at the age of 8, he drew a picture on a wall with a piece of charcoal, stolen from his mother's stove. During moharram, he used to create small masterpieces on the white washed walls of Amroha's Imam Bargah with charcoal. Since this early age, Eqbal's overwhelming drive to externalize his inner frenzy can only be linked to an all encompassing obsession. One day, while bound for a cricket match, eqbal encountered a carpter-weaver, who observed the fine drawing of deer in his hand. A price of 2 annas was agreed upon and Eqbal made his very first un official sale, Like a bullet, the lad dashed to purchase eight sheets of drawing paper with the money. At this age, Eqbal discovered what was to later become the mainstay of his existence.

As time went by, it became visibly apparent to the young artist that art was his vocation in life, a domain where he could find peace and solace. Eqbal chose to move to Karachi Pakistan. While staying with his uncle, he traveled to Iran and met a gentleman lala rasheed, who on meeting Eqbal, right away saw his talent and took him in and became his patron for the next two years. During this period, the artist recalls, he may have stepped out barely four or five times since he was totally consumed by his work, which he executed with a favour and zeal never experienced by him before.

Later eqbal joined the studio of his relative, the renowned artist Sadequain. Eqbal had no formal art education at that time, only a natual talent for drawing from his early childhood. It was at this point of his life that he was introduced to the world of literature and wester aesthetics. Sadequain introduce him to Faiz Ahmed Faiz, one of the Pakistan's leading poets, who instantly hired Eqbal as an illustrator for his weekly magazine, Lail-O-Nehar. This became his first salaried job. Following this, he was assigned to work with sub-rang digest and Akhbar-e-Jehan. At the tender age of 23, Iqbal already had a prolific portfolio to his credit, which enabled him to sold his first solo exhibition at the Karachi art council in 1969. In collection of paintings at the Arts Council, emulating a variety of materials. The clay of a rural mud-houe, the earth, the dust and all manner of materials are reproduced with incredible reality. The treatment that he gives to create the different textures in his paintings had begun to carry an unmistakable stamp of his own. Greatly influenced by the realist artist, Rembrandt and Andrew Wyeth, Eqbal learned to balance light and the skill required in the management of shadows. He reviewed the tradition of realism with his impeccable attention to detail. His large scale pieces bare evidence to his infinite patience and joy in detailing where every inch of the canvas has been given its due attention. Textures and materials have been painstakingly executed and presented in their truest form which clearly indicates the outstanding quality of his work. In addition to his oil paintings, Eqbal churns out pen and ink drawings as well as etchings on bronze, with equal ease. At the age of 34, he had produced thousands of pen sketches and hundereds of oil pentings and etchings. In his outstanding painting of a girl in white, it is amazing how he brings out the whitenessof the attire by using color, mostly blue and yellowish grey. HE never uses white paint straight out of the tube but creates it by mixing colors. The coy girlish expression, the pearly light on the half lighted face and amazingly realistic white dress of the figure, with every wrinkle hightened by a play of light adds up to make this work a masterpiece. Eqbal Mehdi consistently shows his expertise in capturing the nuances of light and shade, evoking chiaroscuroic tension to enhance the dramatic effect in the most of his paintings, especially his portraits. In the most of his works, form and space become solid realities - heavy, voluminous and tangible, like in his paintings where the solid form (woman) painted directly against the backdrop of a carpet, dominates the space. He cleverly exploits, the pattern on the carpet, using it as the background space, not allowing any depth of field. His depiction of light is so earnest, that the viewer can easily discern and perceive the subjects environment ie whether it is natural or contrived. His paintings are not enigmas, puzzles, or metaphors. He is neither a social commentator nor a chronicier or politics of his time. He has an innocent way of looking at life without pedantry and prejudice. Mehdi celebrates the heroism of daily life in his drawings and paintings. In his series of portraits of workers (both men and woman), sturdy pathans, rugged balochi men and pretty girls, he is paying a rich tribute to the multifaced face of Pakistan. Eqbal whose artistic career was initiated with pen and charcoal sketches, began to use color only in 1985 and has managed to excel in whatever medium he has dabbed with. Whether it is paper, canvas or bronze, Mehdi's mastery in all three materials is amply evident in his work spread over a span of almost five decades. Eqbal's paintings adorn the walls of palaces, President's house and important public and private buildings in several countries of the world. Moreover, Mehdi has the unique distinction of being the first muslim painter to have his work exhibited in the prestigious Rembrandt Gallery in Munich, Germany. Eqbal Mehdi has the privilege of being honoured in the lifetime by being presented with Pakistan's Pride of Performance Award for his monumental achievments in 1988. Hailed as magician of drawings by the American Press in recent years.
Iqbal Mehdi died in Rawalpindi on May 19, 2008 after suffering from heart and liver diseases. Mehdi left behind a wife, a daughter and a son, Farhan.


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