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Framed
August 21, 2018

Painting Beyond The Lines: Muhammad Zeeshan

Text by Huzan Tata

In the second part of our series spotlighting the works of Pakistani artists, Muhammad Zeeshan tells us how his identity and the political and social milieu around him define his art

Muhammad Zeeshan

The artistic era of 18th- to 19th-century Paris is a time he would have loved to live in if he were allowed to fulfil his fantasy, but it’s still his identity as a South Asian that defines Muhammad Zeeshan and all his art. Hailing from Mirpur Khas district but now based in Karachi, the 38-year-old holds a degree in miniature painting from the National College of Arts, Lahore. His multidisciplinary practice sees him work in video, collage, drawing, and installation art — his preferred medium these days being laser scoring and sandpaper. He believes that art cannot and should not have any boundaries. And his works are usually charged by the political and social milieu around him.

Creative Beginnings
“I wanted to convert my passion into a profession so from a painter I trained to become an artist. As a young boy, I used to indulge in games like dog fighting, cock fighting, and pigeon keeping (I owned more than 100 pigeons at one time). These activities taught me patience. I find myself referring to those times constantly while creating work and looking at art.”

Artistic Inspirations
“I enjoy works of directors creating parallel cinema. It could be in any language and in any genre. For me, inspiration could come from anywhere and at any time. You can’t force it, you can’t plan it. It is as random as the next breath.”

When Not At Work
“I watch lots of Bollywood movies. I think movies are a complete package, where literature, writing, visuals, lights, sound, theatre, performing arts come together to create an interesting dialogue or set of events. Watching movies helps me unwind, enjoy and absorb things on a subconscious level.”

Portraying Pakistan
“My art is intrinsic and comes from an intuitive level, where at times I surprise myself with the kind of images I choose to create and therefore I don’t believe or see my practice as separate from my identity. It represents me and all that is connected with me. Therefore, yes! My heritage, its history, its culture defines me. Which history am I allowing myself to be informed from? The land I belong to dates back to 7000 BC, and I proudly own and accept all its stories, and its past, present and future.”

A Story Of Shared Histories
“The Subcontinent is a beautiful amalgam of many cultures. Due to trade, economics and patronage, we find substantial influences of various cultures that the erstwhile kings or emperors were generously introducing and accepting. My root practice of miniature painting was privileged enough to have had all these influences and developed styles which inform us beautifully as artists today.”

Facing Backlash
“South Asians are not the only ones facing problems. Censorship, backlash, class factors — we find these around the world, in many countries. The First World countries have a higher number of these, I assure you. As for how I tackle them? I think they tickle me!”

Greatest Achievement
“I experienced the boom of the art world and gained a lot from it and also experienced the toughest economic crunch of this market as well. I believe I can call myself a veteran.”

Pakistani Art In A Global Sphere
“Good art shall always nourish and nurture wherever it is perceived in the world. Pakistani art has been doing a great job for a long time now on many levels. We have artists of the diaspora creating a wonderful dialogue. We have old masters informing the auction houses, followed by young talent aspiring to travel the world to gain experience and be heard. This is a pronounced expansion.”

Love Thy Neighbour
“Pakistan’s Sufi saints’ history and heritage is a wonder to experience. I would heavily recommend discovering those sites, which are located all around the country. Coming to India is always desirable for me. It is eternally enriching and I consider it my second home. I have travelled to many cities in India over the past two decades. I still have so much to see.”

On The Wall At Home
“My walls wear a series of nudes, which I have been patiently collecting for the past 10 years. I’d love to own Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci, because it is the most expensive painting ever auctioned.”

Future Forward
“I have a solo booth at the Contemporary Istanbul Art Fair in September, a solo show in Berlin in 2019 and a curatorial venture still in the pipeline that I’m looking forward to.”

Read Part 1 on artist Salman Toor here

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