Jamil Naqsh was born in Kairana, Uttar Pradesh in 1938. In a still rapidly expanding art world, Jamil Naqsh holds a key position. He is the best-known contemporary artist from Pakistan, long famous in his own country, and also well established in international auctions. His work reflects, not just the culture of Pakistan, but also that of the whole of the Indian subcontinent, both Muslim and non-Muslim. In particular, there are many echoes of the imperial Mughal regime that once ruled the whole of India.


In his paintings, signs, symbols and images, are used as motifs and combined with passages of variegated colour, abstracted form and graphic compositional devices. Naqsh’s signature sinuous line is deployed to express the rich contour of human, animal and topographic elements. Images of naked figures, doves, bulls and fish pre-dominate. Bright blues, reds and yellows play across the earth tones and hues. Scattered throughout are mysterious fragments of text.


What is notable about the development of his works, is the integration of abstract and figurative components. His paintings have richly-worked, abraded and encrusted surfaces. The mark of the hand and brush is expressively evident; some images and symbols are sgraffitoed into the paint film. An almost collage-like approach to image-making is energetically evident, as is an interest in the vigorously expressive effect of paint as matter. This has transformed the motif, leading to break up and re-integration. The resultant accreted surfaces are maps of the artist’s pre-occupations, records of his cultural musings.


These divided, fragmented and incremental images make allusion to the layers of civilisation Naqsh is so fascinated by. The paintings themselves are archaeological, whereby sifted perceptions emerge from splintered and reassembled pieces of information, some of it easily recognisable as symbol, some of it abstracted, allusive and fugitive. The painter’s process is analagous to the forensic piecing together, conjecture and interpretation of archaeological enquiry. Making connections across time and space, pointing up lost correspondences, his paintings are re-imaginings, transformations of fractured and mysterious material, freighted with melancholy, they nevertheless delight in the sensual relish of the act of painting.


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