Women and the forgotten times
November 25, 2011
Mehtab Ali’s recent series of paintings exhibited at Citi Art Gallery Karachi is entirely different from his past style. He is basically a realistic painter and has done a lot of portraiture during his career. His paintings are close to reality and therefore impress the viewers. He is a realistic painter but his work has evolved during the time and now it appears with a touch of impressionism. His drawing is impressive and the light and shade creates a mesmerising effect.
Mehtab Ali has established himself as a realistic painter. Since 1980s he has been participating in group and solo shows. Most of his artworks especially portraits are among the collection of many private collectors world over as well as permanently displayed at various art galleries abroad.
He has acquired a diverse mode of painting which distinguishes him among his contemporaries. The portraits of Brunei's Royal Family and portraits of Heroes of Independence are also to his credit. A Quaid-e-Azam Portrait must have caught your eye while visiting Karachi Gymkhana, it is his master piece.
But in his new work he relates today's woman with an old civilisation of Mohenjodaro. Mehtab seems to be very inspired by the Mohenjodaro. He got attracted by the fabulous lifestyle of those ancient times. Therefore he decided to highlight our relationship to the past He has done figurative descriptive paintings to enhance the importance of heritage in our lives.
While elaborating his work to me he said, "Before starting this series I visited Mohenjodaro to have a first hand understanding and knowledge of that time so that I can paint it with a real feeling. Knowing something through pictures and actually being there are two different things both are different experiences and therefore I decided to see for myself the old heritage and then portray what I feel and learn from that ancient place."
He also said that his paintings show real models but with imaginary face features to conceal their identity.
The object and the subject diffuse with each other in his paintings creating an aura of mystery between past and present. He paints bold figures. Soft and enlightened female images unveil emotional and intellectual dilemmas of women through the centuries. The alluring female images reflecting again and again on the canvas with the past seem to create a melody between the two ages. He apply vivacious colours in his own way the pleasing hues of blue, green, red, yellow and ochre are well balanced. Each painting has a detail harmonious composition.
He has chosen Mohenjodaro as a symbolic heritage site. As we know Mohenjodaro was one of the largest settlements of the ancient Indus valley civilisation, and one of the world's earliest major urban settlements and during excavation many notable artifacts were found there such as a bronze statuette dubbed the "Dancing Girl", a seated male figure "Priest-King" and various children toys and engraved seals and ornaments which has become symbolic of the Indus valley civilisation.
Mehtab has also used these artifacts symbolically in his paintings. These can be seen in some paintings background and in some they are the main subject. Mostly the artifacts are used in the paintings to present bygone days of ancient era along with damsels of the present times.
Mehtab's work is full of colours but with a compatible surrounding. The skilfully use bright colours show his command on his work although he has painted in bold hues the paintings do not look over done in fact they are very well balanced with the background depicting our cultural heritage. He captures various contemplative moods and expressions of women in his paintings and thus shares their expressive moments.
By depicting the female figures draped in colourful dresses and heavy jewellery of the past lost civilisation he has given a new touch to his paintings and the subject also. Heavy necklaces, bangles, and earrings having ancient designs are used to relate two different times with each other.
As figures mingled with symbols he promotes our culture through his paintings. He painted young women in various postures. His models sits, stand, and lean against ancient heritage sites of Mohenjodaro, brick walls and ancient scripts carved on the walls in the background serve as the past reflections in his paintings. He also worked on the minute detail of jewellery and clothes embroidery.
The bull, dancing girl, Priest King and ancient scripts are symbolically used in the background of the paintings showing a connection of the present world with the past. Thus he tried to make alive the forgotten ones who had become history but have a link to us. We know our civilisation through these artifacts and gain knowledge about our mode of living and behaviours regarding social norms at that time.