A melody of lines and colours

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Naeem Sadhu

A widely respected art teacher, an established calligrapher and a remotely known portrait painter, Arif Khan, was lucky to be groomed by the last generation of traditional calligraphers who used to work at historic ‘Baithak Katiban’ of the walled city of Lahore.

He is an open hearted Lahoria, born and raised in his ancestral house in Shadbagh.

‘I miss my childhood which was very rich and colourful, especially I miss that peaceful city living with the centuries-old traditions of ‘Muhalladari’.

‘In our neighbourhood all the families were living like a big family unit. Kids would go to any house and can play, have food or shower without any hesitation’, he vividly recalls.

He used to stay at the shops of signboard painters and ‘Baithak Katiban’ on his way back home from Central Model High School.

‘I was a frequenter who kept on watching the old lot of calligraphers busy in their work. Responding to my interest in one of them, I don’t even know his name, would gave me a ‘Qalam’ (reed pen) which I am holding till the day’, he proudly narrates.

‘While doing masters in graphic designing from the Punjab University, I used to practice by shaping small reed or bamboo stick from ice candy in my free time’, he recalls.

He is grateful to Ustad Irfan Ahmed Khan and Ustad Khursheed Alam Gohar Qalam who helped him a great deal in learning the basic skills.

With eight solo and a good number of group participations in Pakistan and abroad, he is working for more than two decades. One of his major contributions is training and inspiring a young lot of calligraphers and calligraphy artists.

‘In 1997 MH Jaffery offered me a job at NCA, in the next year I joined Punjab University where I am still working’.

‘I was doing portraits from very tender age but the flowing lines of calligraphy and subtle sound of reed pen’s scratching on paper always gave me a meditative trance, I enjoy working and that’s the best reward’, he said in an excited tone.

‘I start working without any preconceived sketch in mind, the nature guides me to go with the spontaneous flow of lines’, he added.

With a sound command on blending and articulating various styles of calligraphy he creates innovative compositions. The visual textures created by calligraphic strokes dominate his works.

He usually built them gradually, employing thin layers of acrylic paint, inks, gold and silver leaf on low textured paper. Working with sensibility of a creative designer he always dare and make a good use of negative spaces to enhance the visual impact.

His recent works reflects a transformation from traditional calligraphy to simplified flowing lines which carries a rhythm and spontaneity of Zen Artists.

Despite all odds of life and discriminating attitude of art pundits towards calligraphy, he kept on working consistently for his own pleasure.

He is unhappy for Lahore who has almost lost his culture of discussions on literature and political ideologies over a cup of tea, in the roadside and street tea stalls.

On the other hand he is an optimist who believes that all the agony and chaos we are living in, will definitely give birth to big art and literature.

Naeem Sadhu, “A melody of lines and colours,” in Dawn, June 15, 2015. Accessed on June 15, 2015, at: http://www.dawn.com/news/1188289/a-melody-of-lines-and-colours

The item above written by Naeem Sadhu and published in Dawn on June 15, 2015, is catalogued here in full by Faiz-e-Zabaan for non-profit educational purpose only. Faiz-e-Zabaan neither claims the ownership nor the authorship of this item. The link to the original source accessed on June 15, 2015, is available here. Faiz-e-Zabaan is not responsible for the content of the external websites.

Recent items by Naeem Sadhu:

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