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Javaid Iqbal gives visual outlook to verses of legendary poets of Kashmir

Post by Insha Latief Khan on Sunday, November 6, 2022

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Watching hues and tints of a color on the canvas that excavates the past of the place is a delight to sore eyes. With the colorful brush strokes, Javaid Iqbal, an artist from Sopore is giving new language to the old verses of legendary poets of Kashmir. 

People who get to see the lyrics of the legendaries from Javaid’s lens, get compelled to take a deep dive into the mystic world. From Rasool Mir’s romanticism to Lal Ded’s lullabies, the painter has added new freshness in these verses on his canvas. 

While speaking about his work, he said, under the theme, 31 paintings were made by him over the span of two years. It all started with the lockdown imposed in view of Covid pandemic when he, being a literature enthusiast, came across one of a couplet of a Kashmiri Sufi poet, Shamas Faqeer. The couplet describes nothingness which made Javaid ponder that how can someone of that era talk about the concept that is being discussed in today’s times. 

He said, “Poets of Kashmir who are till today known as trend setters fascinates me. The poet was talking about nothingness centuries back which made me think that we have a huge treasure of poems from the past and I thought of giving this treasure a visual shape.”

The idea of presenting the ancient work of poets over his canvas with his own perspective was born. 

“The aim of my work was to give tribute to these legends. Also, the poetry of these poets is not in visual form. I tried to present the poetry like if it would have been my thoughts on today's date, how would I have painted it. I didn’t illustrate it but I saw it from my own thoughts. I gave these couplets an abstract expressionism with my own thoughts,” he explained.

Poets like Lala Arifa, Lal Ded, Sheikh ul Alam, Habba Khatoon, Ahad Zargar, Shamas Fakeer, Rasool Mir, Samad Mir, Mahmod Gami, Abdul Azad, Rehman Rahi, Hakeem Manzoor, Shahnaz Rasheed etc. are the poets whose work he has illustrated with his own technicalities of color, composition and brush strokes.  

In making the collection of paintings, he faced the struggle in interpreting the work of the poets.

“Although it’s a tough thing to do, it also speaks about the originality of your work. You can’t call yourself an artist unless you interpret things or else it’s just copying what’s already there,” he said.  

He believes that an artist must possess two qualities- observation and interpretation. While using the famous painter, Pablo Picasso’s quote - I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them, he said, “The work of an artist is to paint a subject as per our way. Painting is not about imitations. An artist has to observe the color, dimensions and depth of the subject to extract things which become paintings. Interpretation is how you interpret your thought which involves using your color palette and brushing your own way.”

In his work, he used a powerful palette of vivid colors. “I have used the deepest reds, the coolest blues, earthy tones, muted musings, darks and neutrals to express my connection to the ever-changing nature that embraces me all around. The forms are organic and or geometric flowing and blending to emerge or submerge as is the moment that is being expressed,” he siad while explaining his work.

Javaid has been working in a number of mediums which includes oil paints, water colors etc. and his subject has most of the time been Kashmir. “I usually try to paint Kashmir because it has thousands of colors in one moment. We have a rich source of color here. I paint and give it my expression so that people can come to know that the artist must be from Kashmir because my color palette is very similar to colors of Kashmir. We have blue sky, lush green mountains and I try to get them on my canvas,” he said. 

For him, nature’s beauty, splendid landscape has always been an inspiration.

Talking about his compositional elements, he said that the compositional elements - contrasting colors, textures, lines, shapes, space, etc. invoke the viewer to travel along with the artwork into the inner terrains unexplored by the conditioned minds of humanity.

He wants to take his collection to other parts of India particularly Delhi. “People of other states can’t read Kashmiri but they can connect as they have the atmosphere where people understand and appreciate art,” he added. 

Various artists and art critics have written about his work.

“By employing the language of colour to translate mystic and commonplace symbols, he was able to interpret Kashmiri poetry. We’ve never seen something like the gnosis on the canvas before,” said Mushtaq B.Barq, a columnist and an author.

Shafi Shauq, Poet, Fiction Writer, Linguist and Critic said, “Javid Iqbal’s paintings based on verses selected mainly from mystic poets of Kashmir stimulate fresh debate on the aesthetic relation between painting and poetry - therein lies the success of his enterprise. Like Behzad, William Blake, Kahlil Gibran, Abdur Rahman Chughtai, and many others who have utilised poetic insights in their paintings and drawings, Javid Iqbal, to my knowledge enjoys the status of a path-breaker in this direction.”

Javid has won State Annual Art Awards in 2009, 2012, 2015 and 2016 by J&K Academy of Art Culture and Languages besides Award of honour by a literary forum Bazm-i-Adab. He has also participated in a number of national workshops and camps and has exhibited his work in many places of India.

Being a nature lover, he is currently thinking of doing something to highlight the issue of pollution with 3-dimensional effect. With the involvement of children, he would create awareness related to the alarming population problems and its repercussions.

A self-taught painter, Javaid has done his post-graduation degree in Geography. Since beginning, being interested in the subject helped him to connect with nature and its color, dimensions, tone, physical existence which he finds somewhat similar to art and paint. 

Like any other artist, he would fiddle with his drawing book but the turning point of his life occurred when he got in touch with Mohammad Yousuf Bacha, a landscapist from Sopore who used to guide young and budding artists. “He is an institution within. All the artists from North Kashmir have been monitored by him and in the beginning, he supported me a lot,” he recalled his early life.  

With time, he honed his artistic temper by meeting with number of artists and participating in number of camps and workshops including National Painters Camp 2019 at Srinagar organized by Ministry of culture Government of India in collaboration with Master Sansar Chand Baru trust and “UTTAR” North Regional online art camp 2021 organized by AKSHAYA KALAYATRA, Hina Bhatt Art ventures, Mystic Moods 2nd organized by HBAV an online camp 2022 etc. 

Javaid feels that Kashmir has been an abode for artists and the younger generation has potential to excel in the field but the lack of awareness among the people has always been a tough situation for them to tackle. 

“It will take time for people to understand the work of artists. In olden times, in the absence of language, pictogram was used as a medium of communication. People used to make images and communicate through drawings. Even historians consult artwork and drawings to estimate the culture of places. Such is the importance of art but some people don’t understand the value of art,” he said. 

While concluding with the message for artists, he said that an artist has to start from the basics. “In art, there is no shortcut at all. One has to go for the long journey. One has to learn the basic forms to build a strong base. One has to climb the ladder step by step to get to the top,” he said. 

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