Tyaba Habib

Tyaba Habib

Jamil Naqsh Pays Tribute to Marino Marini 1998

Considered to be the leading sculptor since Boccioni and Rosso, Marino Marini (1901-80) is categorized with the ten greatest artists of the twentieth century. Though Marini may primarily be known because of his sculpture, like Michelangelo, he was equally at home in both graphic and canvas work as well as in bronze and stone. With his work housed in most major museums of the world as part of their permanent collections, he is admired by critics, scholars and art lovers the world over.

Inexorably drawn to and influenced by Italian- born Marini, Jamil Naqsh has dedicated this exhibition of a collection of some one hudered fifty paintings to his memory. The predominant theme of this current exhibition is horses, also a favourite theme of Marini who was a man of symbols. And, since the beginning of time the horse has been a universal symbol of energy and vital instinct. Naqsh has been painting horses for the past forty years, and though this theme continues to have great attraction for him, to date no exhibition dedicated to this work has been held. He explains this away by stating nonchalantly that not talking about an issue does not deny its existence! So, now he feels that the time is opportune to take the paintings of this series out for viewing. In this series he celebrates the perfection and beauty of what he considers to be the two most beautiful of all creations-woman and horse. On his medium they weave into one another and in some cases the riders, like centaurs, are merged with their horses. For Naqsh the horse and the female form represent one and the same, perhaps even sharing the same soul; the two forms are simultaneously independent and dependent.

By dedicating this exhibition to Marini, Naqsh salutes the status of Marini tacitly acknowledging that he is the pinnacle and definitely worthy of admiration. During his career, Marini developed a few essential and familiar themes that in spite of his hard and prolific work he never exhausted. Often even accused of thematic poverty, he gravitated towards his chosen trilogy of themes-female nudes, horses and portraits. Naqsh too seems to gravitate towards his themes-horses, nudes, prajna paramata and pigeons, but he has proved again that there is an infinite variety in these basic themes. And, of these subjects, it is the female body that gives him inexhaustible inspiration. But, whatever his theme, what intrigues us is the perfect mastery of technique. So, despite the apparent poverty of themes, Naqsh has given proof of great imagination, an imagination that leads him not so much toward the ‘subject’ as toward a formal research concerned with space, volume, form, texture and lines.

Naqsh, has of necessity, strayed again and again from the basic, fundamental principles of art. But the laws of composition must remain, and when he strays, he justifies the deviation by again creating a perfect balance, or, doing as Picasso said, knowing the line before breaking the line. Almost effortlessly he plays with his medium and intricately creates varying textures considering this to be his challenge. It is this balance between space and line, between texture, and form and surface that he pursues with concentration and perseverance.

Like Marini, Naqsh has no preferences for the material he uses. The tools of the trade as it were, are insignificant. What is celebrated is the skill of the artist who fashions a creation from the materials, which added together become more than the sum of the total.

Naqsh begins work with an initial idea and by focusing on one of his preferred themes, but the complexities of creating soon take over and he loses himself in concentrating on bringing about a perfect composition. As it begins to take form, he derives great pleasure from its creation and gets infinitely absorbed as he finishes the work with great precision and with an eye to detail. The culmination of die creative exercise gives him supreme satisfaction knowing that the work is done to the best of his ability and pleases him; for he is his own harshest critic. The figures of this or any other series though related, are each icons of individuality: the more one considers the apparent similarities, the more one becomes aware of their differences. Beginning with the same theme, its evolution is almost enigmatic, but its culmination is invariably different. There is infinite variety within the theme and he himself is not aware of where his creativity and search for excellence will ultimately lead him. To those who argue that there is much similarity in any particular series, Naqsh counters that there are infinite differences. Undaunted by criticism, he pursues his ideals in the way that he knows best, confident his work will stand the test of time.

Naqsh spent his early childhood with his family in Kairana. Though his father practised local unani medicine, he wasinterested in art and drawing and illustrated books in his spare time. Their home bustled with guests and the conversation invariably seemed to focuse on music, art, poetry and literature. There were signs of artistic talent everywhere in the family and also in the community. This provided the perfect background to Naqsh-who was already sensitive to light, colour and form-the perfect environment in which to develop his artistic tendencies. Pursuing this passion later on too, he gradually matured as an artist and can today stand with the masters of contemporary art. His work relates to civilization and to everything bequeathed to us by the past and that we have loved since our childhood. He feels strongly that artistic creation, if viewed in isolation and separated from its context, becomes meaningless, as ignorance of what has gone before can only mean ignorance of the present. He is proud to identify with the traditions of the land and with his past: a part of this tradition and yet unique, eastern as his roots, and yet universal, that is the underlying spirit of his art

Like many other artists before him, and like Marini too, Naqsh is determined to make a large donation of his work which will be housed in a museum soon to be inaugurated. For us here it will be exemplary for another reason: an important part of his work will be given to an organization and thus withdrawn from commerce. We are grateful to Naqsh and are in his debt, for this gesture that nsures his contribution to society. At sixty plus with many of the responsibilities of his youth successfully taken care of, he has freed himself of the ties of the world and finds more time to devote to his passion. With the construction of his studio on the roof of his house he is at peace and able to paint undisturbed for hours, and even days, stopping only to eat and sleep.

This is not the first time that Naqsh has dedicated an exhibition to one he admires. A perfectionist himself, he respects those who excel in their field. Guided by excellence in his work, he is the first to acknowledge this in the work of others. Now his talent is his slave rather than the other way round as was in the past, for he paints for himself and not to please others. Naqsh’s art is the art of his roots; of the culturally rich subcontinent which fathered him and is thus, the father of his work, and to which he owes a debt of gratitude. It is this debt that he is seeking to repay ■