He started out as a billboard painter, studied miniature art at National College of Arts, Lahore in 2000-2003, and considers his visit to India in 2005 a turning point in his career, and now Lahore-based artist Muhammad Zeeshan is all set to be back in his favourite country for a solo exhibition titled Poster Nama at Latitude 28 in New Delhi starting November 15, 2013.
Says Bhavna Kakar, director, Latitude 28, “When we showed Zeeshan’s work at India Art Fair 2013, his minimal work — inspired by Damien Hirst’s butterflies — which showed an impeccable sense of proportion and design while using the technique of laser scoring was applauded greatly. His solo will surely be something to watch out for as well.”
The show exhibits 12 paintings that beautifully marry the intricacy of traditional miniatures with contemporary elements of pop art, using laser scoring and gouache on wasli paper.
“I started work as a cinema board painter in Mirpurkhas. Pop culture imagery was routine painting. Billboards of either a popular soft drink brand or paid portraits of political candidates during elections on walls were part and parcel of daily work. So it was quite ordinary for me to use them in my compositions.”
Working as a billboard painter is a memory that stayed with the 33-year-old artist who is today at the forefront of contemporary miniature painting and has held hugely successful shows across the globe.
Poster Nama at Latitude 28 is his second art outing in India and the central theme of the show which includes works titled Buraq, Shah Abdul Latif Bittai, Zuljana, Shahbaz Kare Parvaz, and Ghous Pak to name a few is to explore “my ongoing concerns regarding borrowed imagery versus originality”.
“I am using poster images found locally within our culture. These imageries consist of mythical creatures and human. Within the Sufi culture lies a lot of fantastical stories. Using these stories, random local artists and believers have given their own faces to the Sufis and creatures, illustrating the time, events and landscape. I am using those posters to research and explore my own technique.”
Speaking of technique, while miniature paintings is something Zeeshan trained in, using laser scoring is what he chanced upon.
In the current show Zeeshan exhibits his expertise with laser scoring in every beautifully rendered meditative, almost spiritual work.
“How I came across laser scoring is a story in itself… my wife was studying in San Francisco, I used to visit her in school. The first time I saw students work on it and create models out of it, I started asking about it. One day the laser got faulty due the power supply failure and instead of cutting into the material it only engraved. I got thinking what if I feed the machine my painting and control the intensity so that it doesn’t cut and
only scores? That is the first time I experimented with it and I got hooked,” Zeeshan said.
And even though Zeeshan has exhibited across the globe in Asia, Europe and the USA, he maintains that “India has always been my favourite place of exhibit. I enjoy the culture and its warm welcome. I want to show and share what I create reaching out to as many people and cultures as I can.”
(Poonam Goel is a freelance journalist who contributes articles on visual arts for unboxedwriters.com)