An artist, a shaker

Some called him a ‘free thinker’, some suggested that he was the pioneer of socio-political art in Pakistan. Critics thought it was too radical and too drastic, while few called it a legend!

Among these voices someone named him as the irrational man.

Whatever the comment, but the reality is that he is one more artist from Pakistan that we have lost forever! Abdul Rahim Nagori.

A student of Ana Molka Ahmad and a graduate of the Department of Fine Arts at Punjab Lahore University, Nagori is often labeled a colorful painter with dark themes.

Originally from the land of colors and thirst, Rajasthan; Nagori personified the desert mode of the luxurious panoramic vision of that very terrain, within his style and through his canvases, which was as colorful as a rainbow and as thirsty as sand!

Its frames are as vibrant as the dances of Rajasthan; where he was born in 1938. While his themes are as dark as today’s Pakistani nights, where he last breathed on January 14, 2011.

As the son of a forest officer, his association with darkness and the mysteries of a jungle, remained haunting throughout his life and dragged across his images.

His paintings were sometimes as dramatic as the beauty of an Apsara or Aphrodite, and sometimes as deep and fatal as a Vishkanneya (poisonous girl) could be. Nagori always showed a specific and dogmatic approach towards the fragile half of humanity and their beauty!

Once in an interview, with a touch of mischief, he said:

“They (the sadhus) told me about beautiful women, the Apsaras, who descended from the heavens to take men to paradise, posthumously rewarding them for their sufferings in their life on earth. The Apsaras were a mystery to me as a child. , And they are still a mystery to me now, when I am in my sixties! “

But this mischievous artist was very loud and bold in his comments on society and politics.

He could be found as instinctive in his palette as a fauve could be, and as direct in style as a realist should be.

This fusion of Realism, Modernity and Politics reminds us of the restlessness of the First and Second World War. This is the same frenzy that forced artists to become Dadaists, or to cause artistic thinking to transform into action art.

Art and socially conscious artists have never been rare at any time, as it was Francisco de Goya (1746-1828) who was moved by the May 3 shootings, or it was Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) who expressed his deep nationalism. in the painting Liberty Leading the People. Later, Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) and Jean-Francois Millet (1814-1875), under the overwhelming influence of realism, were convicted of the same crime. While Lunch on the Grass by Édouard Manet (1832-1883) and Potato Eaters by Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) reflected the dichotomy, discrimination and scarcity of society in relation to humanism and individuality.

Nagori is among those who were inspired by the changing social and political scene in his country. When the Homeland lost its sovereignty after being subjected to Martial Law, almost all thinkers, writers, poets and artists protested against it, but there were not many who raised their voices through their expression. A handful were the poets and writers who burned their pens to burn their lyrical themes and courageous concepts, still fewer were the painters who were able to escape the power and authority of the dictatorship. In an age when many figurative painters were twisting their brush and style towards painting calligraphic or nationalistic portraits (rather nationalized), Nagori was agitated with all his colors, concepts and themes! He screamed and screamed piercingly out of his frames.

The sociopolitical paintings of Nagori in the Zia ul-Haq regime clearly show a sloganist attitude within an artist. Although Bashir Mirza was also commenting on this situation in his own way, Nagori’s voice was strong and forceful. His series of rebellious exhibitions from 1982 to 1988 resonates shrill, with energy and lucidity.

In 1982, Nagori came up with the ‘Exhibition Against Militarism and Violence’, which was censored and banned by the martial law regime. In this exhibition he also commented on the Sabra and Shatila massacres: the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

In 1983, the “Anti Martial Law Exposition” was sponsored by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ); this show was unique within its theme and bold overtones.

The year 1986 forced Nagori to paint against the autocracy. The ‘Exhibition Against Dictatorship’ was held at the Indus Gallery, Karachi, which was known as the most powerful exhibition of his career, where he exhibited sixty-two different terrible national events to touch the conscience of the nation.

“Road to Democracy” was an anti-dictatorship exhibition held at Indus Gallery Karachi in 1988. That particular show was reviewed by Mark Fineman of the Los Angeles Times. In this program, Nagori showed the evils of society by developing new alphabetic symbols for children, based on the events that took place in the previous two years; bomb explosions, crime, dacoities, weapons, heroin, Ojhri Blast, Kalashnikov, rape, etc. they became new symbols of the alphabet.

While in the last decade of the 20th century, his work focused more on humanity, individuality and identity.

In 1990, he exhibited, “Yo soy tú”, an exhibition against violence; This show also featured the participation of International Artists. In the same year, the exhibition “Women of Myth and Reality” at Indus Gallery Karachi, renounced the treatment of women.

In 1992 a series of 40 paintings under the title ‘Exhibition on Minorities’ was again a process of social and political protest by the mute, bewildered and confused society that is full of tears, shame, anguish and anger. This show was held at the Chawkhandi Art Gallery, Karachi.

Black between Blacks was another exhibition that attracted significant attention from viewers and critics in 1994. This exhibition was held at Lahore Art Gallery and its main focus was feudalism and its effects.

In 2004, the exhibition “Return to Sphinx” held at VM Art Gallery Karachi, was one of his last major appearances. Since then, Nagori has not found herself in the limelight.

Nagori may well be the only artist who took aim at the government’s stance on its nuclear policy. His paintings ‘Nuke Nights’ and ‘Nuke Delivery’ are the paradoxical expression of his sarcastic agitation that he also applied when criticizing the educational strategy of the government, by symbolically painting intellectuals of this country as ‘proverbial monkeys’ who could not see, hear or speak of any evil in society!

Except for the sociopolitical setting, Nagori’s interest in ancient history and mythology persisted as his specific doctrine in the process of putting his seditious ideas on canvas.

As the exhibition titles suggest; Nagori was a thematic and dogmatic artist, very sensitive to her surroundings and who never stayed silent. At a time when even well-established artists in Pakistan sought government patronage by condemning figurative or conceptual art and promoting calligraphic or decorative art, Nagori painted the way he always wanted!

Many critics blame him for being inspired by the Fauves! In a way, it could be, in its palette and expression, in its clear theme and in its anguish. I think he was also a realist, expressionist, impressionist, abstract or surrealist painter; as long as it was a matter of expression. But above all he was a nationalist!

A painter from Pakistan!

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