"Painting is an on going process - a series of experiments. The more you suffer the more you dare. That is why each painting is a part of another painting." Mona Naqsh
Visiting Mona Naqsh at her residence is a revitalizing experience. One may liken it to entering an oasis where fresh flowers bloom. These are the models the artist uses in her unique Perceptual art, a method that stresses the importance of visual interest. Mona has a meticulous, unique technique, with delicately painted leaves and petals formed by gradient colours and flowing strokes. Her compositions reflect a refinement that contrasts subtly with the realities of urban society of the present age. As I arrived, elegantly framed paintings were ready for dispatch to Twelve Gates Art Gallery, and we viewed the work for exhibition, canvases of varying sizes; the compositions joyfully filling surfaces with glorious colour. Gazing at those images, one felt the pin-pricks of daily routine gradually dissolve and in their place, a wider understanding of nature’s bounty optimistically prevailed. Mona paints only flowers that grow wild; daisies, lilies, almond blossom, frangipani, cornflowers and numerous gifts of nature that grow triumphantly in arid vistas. These are arranged in crystal vases and ceramic bowls. Her private collection includes large scaled palette knife compositions, the manifold hues emerging from multi layered surfaces with dazzling intensity. These artworks, taking months of work, are labours of love, presented to her husband, who is an artist in his own right. Gifting her family is a tradition she has inherited from her father, whose marvelous paintings are a feature of Mona Naqsh’s home.
The language of flowers in art is rich and subtle having diverse symbolic meaning in different cultures. Artists in Chinese history evolved a secret language discernable only to the initiated thus forbidden subjects were articulated. In Italy, the goddess Flora, depicted against a mass of blooms, was an ancient flower deity, a fertility symbol able to create fecundity in barren stock. In Western art, flowers were portrayed in vanitas schools of painting and referred to the transitory nature of life, often with insects hidden among the leaves. Modern artists such as Georgia O’Keefe and Elizabeth Blackadder have taken flowers as a subject far from the banal images of Victorian floral paintings; while Hockney and Patrick Proctor are among those famous artists who turn to flowers for a respite and solace from their complex work and lives.
Few artists in Pakistan take flowers as their subject; Mona Naqsh is a rare exception. She discovered her vocation early in life, her source of inspiration springing from an appreciation of nature nurtured by an exquisite sequence of `Still-Life’ executed by her father, Pakistan’s acknowledged Modern Master, Jamil Naqsh. As she recalls from childhood, no one was allowed to enter her father’s studio while he was working, and the flower studies he painted for a friend, she viewed for the first time when they were completed. The beauty of the paintings with exquisite detail deeply affected the young girl. That night she lay awake, too aesthetically stimulated and excited to sleep. At the first light of day, she rose from her bed and, going into the garden, picked some flowering shrubs, and in her own modest little studio she arranged them in an arrangement that pleased her and began to paint.
Growing up in her father’s house, Mona looks back on the art guidance she received as comparable to the equivalent of a master’s art training. From the beginning, she imbibed her father’s working pattern spending hours in the studio, balancing scholastic achievements with the process of art. Working on a painting she would patiently wait for her father to enter her space, view the work and point to a certain area that, as he would remark: “needed attention.” Then he would move on, and Mona would be expected to know what he meant and act accordingly. No questions were asked.
Mona Naqsh began to exhibit her work in 1987, portraying great masses of wild flowers with light and colour. Her eye for detail is a signature feature of her work, veined leaves and play of light creating myriad shades and patterns, often interpreted by observers as symbolic of the freedom of aesthetic thought that exists even in the most restricted circumstances.
Where once the dominant element of Mona’s work was a young artist’s discovery of nature’s beauty, her work now is tempered by mature contemplation, with brushwork that appears to transfer the artist’s expression to a textured surface. She continues to work many hours of the day, while raising her children, who are now, showing promise with their own views on art, so the Naqsh tradition continues. In Mona’s work one is aware of not only the overt beauty and strength of the organic matter alone, but the artist’s reaching out to communicate the ultimate triumph of nature.
Mona Naqsh studied under her father Jamil Naqsh, considered to be one of the great living Pakistani modern master artists. She has no official academic training in painting. Since first showing her work in Karachi in 1987, Naqsh has carved a unique niche for herself by painting decorative floral arrangements housed in crystal and porcelain vases. For the past ten years she has exhibited in Karachi several times as well as in London in 2002. This marks her first solo exhibition here in the US.
"For me painting is all about relationships. The object of common use becomes an object of knowledge. It is a discipline and a sense of character. Through painting we establish relationships with the past and make history synonymous with our souls. It is the mirror of ones soul." Mona Naqsh
Naqsh's paintings possess an ethereal quality. She creates dreamlike portraits of beautiful flower arrangements with a strong focus on line and technique.
"Mona paints only flowers that grow wild; daisies, lilies, almond blossom, frangipani, cornflowers and numerous gifts of nature that grow triumphantly in arid vistas.... she has a meticulous, unique technique, with delicately painted leaves and petals formed by gradient colors and flowing strokes. Her compositions reflect a refinement that contrasts subtly with the realities of urban society of the present age.... Few artists in Pakistan take flowers as their subject; Mona Naqsh is a rare exception. She discovered her vocation early in life, her source of inspiration springing from an appreciation of nature nurtured by an exquisite sequence of `Still-Life' executed by her father, Jamil Naqsh" Marjorie Husain, International Art Critic
Naqsh, a mother of two girls, who are also aspiring artists, currently resides in Karachi, Pakistan where she works out of her home studio.
Naqsh has created a niche for herself by being one of the few Pakistani artists to take flowers as her subject, specifically the still-lifes she creates by arranging wild flowers in either porcelain or crystal vases. Her floral portraits are filled with the vibrancy of life the actual flowers contained when first placed within their companion vases. Naqsh has generated her own uniquely meticulous technique through the act of creation that endows her images with an ethereal quality. Her oil paintings on canvas reveal the full range of her technical abilities. The above floral portrait of orange-hued blossoms cascading up and out of a wide, circular crystal vase is a prime example of her dreamlike compositions. Petals and leaves are delicately painted with flowing strokes that create a free-form sense of being and movement; the flowers appear both part of and yet apart from our world. The crystal vase stands in stark contrast to the natural depiction of the flowers, whose crisp lines mimic the way light reflects off of the infinite facets on its exterior. The table and cloth the vase rests upon are not as crisply delineated; their subtle shades and lines are akin to the otherworldly expression of the blossoms exploding forth from the painting.
Texture is prominent is her canvas paintings through the layering of colors and juxtaposition of techniques applied to flowers and vase. The painting above is one of a few where space is virtually non-existent. In all of Naqsh’s floral portraits the emphasis is on the arrangement, which encompasses the entire picture plane, and the space it is set within is secondary, at least delineated by a line separating ground from wall. Here, while the reflection of light from the vase gives a sense of a ground, the background space is filled with a textural gradient of color that flattens the plane, pushing the floral arrangement to the front of the picture and making it pop outward. Yet the floral arrangement remains connected to the background because of the textural technique applied to the flowers’ depiction.
By contrast, her paintings on paper have a crisp clarity born out of Naqsh’s methodical application of line and color. Her eye for detail comes to the fore in her depiction of light, such as the reflection off of the porcelain vase onto the bare table, and the shape and form of blossoms and veined leaves that spring forth and droop out of their container. In these images color is at its most vibrant, and the flowers are almost painfully bright with their luminosity. It is intriguing that her images on paper feature porcelain vases while her canvas paintings contain the crystal ones.
Yet it is the sole ink pen drawing that stands apart from and above the other images. Primarily black and white with a few subtle additions of color at the neck of the glass vase and within the heart of the flowers, this is a composition unique from Naqsh’s other ones. The floral arrangement is still prominently at the center, but the surrounding space has taken a more conspicuous position as part of the composition. A window, from which light filters through, can be distinguished in the upper left corner of the image. The diagonal ray of light strikes the flowers and a column in the back right of the interior, a ghostly architectural presence that adds depth to the space. There is more movement here than in any other piece, from the diagonals of the light and verticals of the column to the directions of Naqsh’s strokes as she built up the forms and contrast. This interior is her most developed one, but she also plays with abstracting it. The space is broken up into rectangular areas as if she drew the image piece-meal, focusing on one small area before moving on to the next, so there is little cohesion to the physical space which results in a flattening effect. Of course, the floral arrangement is where Naqsh truly shines, and while the background is dynamic and intriguing your eye is drawn back again and again to the delicate petals that cling to their source, faces open and reaching up and out to the light.
MONA NAQSH “SILENT SERMON" > A SOLO EXHIBITION
ON SATURDAY, 23rd APRIL 2011, 05:30 PM – 08:30 PM
EXHIBITION CONTINUES TILL 30th APRIL 2011.
ALSO LAUNCH OF MONA NAQSH’S RETROSPECTIVE BOOK.
D-116/1-A, Block 4, Clifton,
(Near Chinese Consulate) Karachi, Pakistan.
Phone: (+9221) 35831220/ 35877625
Fax: (+9221) 35832737