The Big Picture. Six Decades of Painting in Pakistan by Tauqeer Muhajir & Muniza Agha-Fawad
"Until a few years ago books on fine arts in Pakistan and individual artists were almost non-existent. Art writers (not to be confused with art critics, who have always been a rare breed) were few but over the years as interest in fine arts grew, art institutes sprouted and people started buying paintings and sculptures, art writing and art publishing got a shot in the arm.
Another development that took place, which has been mentioned in the coffee table book under review, was the return of Jalal Uddin Ahmed and Azra Ahmed, the publisher and the editor of the prestigious journal Arts and the Islamic World, from London. Jalal sahib, as he is commonly referred to, is an octogenarian who in terms of energy and dedication to fine arts will put art-enthusiasts half his age to shame. He collected like-minded people, most of them quite affluent art lovers, to set up a trust — the Foundation of Museum of Modern Art (FOMMA), and set into motion an ambitious programme of publishing monographs on our artists.
The big picture – Six decades of painting in Pakistan by Tauqeer Muhajir and Muniza Agha-Fawad, is divided into, as the name suggests, different decades and has, as a prelude to the works created during the period and the artists responsible for the creations, given the socio-political background to the periods under discussion. A sensible approach indeed! How else, for instance, would someone, particularly a foreign reader, know the reason behind the sudden upsurge in the ’80s in works of Islamic calligraphy without knowing that the military dictator General Ziaul Haq discouraged figurative paintings? But the book also informs us that it was during the general’s tenure that the Fine Arts Department was set up in the University of Balochistan.
The first chapter, which gives brief introductions to art movements, both oriental (read sub-continental) and occidental, should be of help to those whose knowledge of fine arts is even less than elementary. Likewise, the thumbnail sketches of painters and sculptors in the final pages of the publication, though brief, serve as basic introductions to the artists. However, in at least one case the report has a lacuna.
One of the most important points about the neo-miniaturist, Shazia Sikander, is that she introduced the genre of miniatures to the West and that she lives and paints in the US, where her work fetches the price she couldn’t have imagined getting in Pakistan.
The volume is the labour of love of two writers — Tauqeer Muhajir and Muniza Agha-Fawad. The prose is simple and lucid. There is no attempt to impress the lay readers with a profusion of technical jargon." — Asif Noorani in DAWN
Sunday, 03 May, 2009.