FEATURED ARTIST- Waseem Mushtaq
Born in 1973 in Kupwara, Waseem Mushtaq is a well recognized artist of Kashmir. Founder of ‘Kashmir Contemporary Art’ an NGO to practice and promote Art in Kashmir which was active from 1995 to 1999.
Waseem Mushtaq recalls the scenario of Art in Kashmir at the time he enrolled himself in the Institute of Music and Fine Arts College in Srinagar in 1993.
“Situation in Kashmir at that time was worse than its now. It was almost impossible to continue study as most of the day’s schools and colleges would remain shut. And it was difficult for us (students)to reach to our Institutions because of imposed curfews and cordons. I never gave up, although it took me seven years to complete BFA in Painting which was then a Five year degree course,” recalls Waseem.
Stating that the times were very unstable and precarious Waseem further adds that “the year 1993 is remembered as the bloodiest year of Kashmir history that shook Valley to its depths. 6 January 1993 is still remembered for the heinous ‘Sopore massacre’ when Indian troops allegedly fired bullets indiscriminately on civilians and killed more than 60 civilians and burned down 450 buildings including shops and homes and ‘Lal Chowk fire’ of 10 April 1993 over 125 civilians were killed by BSF troops”.
When asked about the effect of such events on his Art practice, Waseem said that that “such events always remained in the back of mind and did appear in color and forms but there is always a line of hope, I intend not to restrict my work to particular place or event and rather try to express a global view with broader themes”.
Waseem Mushtaq comes from a well educated family and according to him his parents were his first inspiration to pursue a career in Fine Arts. He completed his BFA in painting from Institute of Music and Fine Arts College Srinagar in the year 2000, and travelled to Delhi working as freelance Artist. Spending a year or so in Delhi Waseem Mushtaq decided to pursue Masters in Fine Arts (MFA). He completed his MFA in Painting from Visva Bharti University Shantineketan in 2003. What he calls as a ‘Journey of Art practice’ from ‘perceptual to Conceptual form’.
With reference to the current situation in Kashmir, the Artist said that art always plays a vital role in such situations referring to Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ and abstract expressionism a response to World War II. He further added that introducing Art classes in education curriculum would certainly bring a change and we need to grow to understand that the lack of art in our schools and in the overall education system has to be addressed and reformed.
Giving a gist of some of his works Waseem said: ‘The work Walking Man is a personalized evolution story. It is an oblique reference to the critique of Hegelian* concept of Western historical civilization as deterministically progressive, what he called, the World Spirit. In the midst of the critique of Hegel where the idea of Western Universalism is seen as an oxymoron I imagine my own historical-consciousness of evolutionas acounteract. The work makes explicit references to Darwin’s theory of evolution; the famous/infamous theory e=mc2that lead to the nuclear energy/weapons counteracts with Rodin’s Thinker; Existential Vacuum and Giacometti’s Walking Men, Gandhi’s non-violence movement in the midst of worst violence and mayhem that Indian has ever witnessed; The nightmarish horse of Picasso’s Guernica re-enacted in Kashmir; Paul Klee’s childlike world where one can go for a walk with a line is confronted with Van Gough’s Pair of Shoes; the blind poet singing: “where were you when I became the silence of T in Tsunami…”
The work, in its candid references to art-history, constructs a narrative recalling some of the historical ruptures deconstructing the Hegelian idea of civilizational progress that he so emphatically attributed to the western thought. The work aims to evoke a certain realization in the deterministic faith in the modernist claim of linear progress towards utopia. It submits its discontent by foregrounding the element of dystopia implicit in the modernist’s project of utopia.
The work is intentionally split into seven** vertical panels, which takes into account the crucial role of a viewer in the process of creating or destroying the process of meaning making. The viewer is at liberty to shuffle or rearrange the seven panels as he desires and hence authenticate ‘his/her’ story of evolution.
The Lufz Series (words series) is an offshoot of my previous text-based work that I started while perusing masters in Santinekatan. Largely inspired by the early conceptual artists use of text, for instances, the works of Joseph Kosuth, John Baldessari and other post 60s artists who treated text as a new medium or a means to arrive at the dematerialization of art as object. One of the most significant differencesin the Lufz series is to enter and entertain text, and particularly Urdu text, as both a literal expression and a poetic dimension.Each piece, generally, engages two conflicting Urdu words. And by means of juxtaposing a word with its binary the aim is to foreground the paradigm of double-coding which is an inherent character of any semiotic engagement.
The works are at the same time meditating on the poetic vocabulary of some of the noted Indian Urdu poets, like Ghalib, Mir, Firaq, Faiz, Majaz and so on.
In general the text has always been there in disguise, behind, above or below the work of art. In my more or less arduous use of text I seek a certain approximation where my mute forms/images become mutant allies in the theatre of text. In other words, it is symptomatic of a schizophrenic standpoint that I venture to react to a single experience simultaneously from two opposing stances.
Waseem Mushtaq has explored various mediums in his Art journey including Short films. Two short films- ‘Rahi Zindagi Tu Phir Milenge’ and ‘Shopkeeper’ were presented by Waseem Mushtaq in the workshop ‘Logistics of Perception: Images from Conflict Zones’ organized by MAJLIS (Mumbai) Adi Shakti Pondicherry in the year 2008. In 2009 he was invited as one of the Artist in the workshop IMAGINE PEACE by KHOJ.
Very proactive as an artist, researcher and a teacher, he has been consistently publishing his research articles in various journals. Here is a list of few exhibitions and awards of Waseem Mushtaq:
2011 – Screening of three Short Films: SNOW, UNDER THE TABLE and RAHI ZINDAGI TU PHIR MILENGE – THIS EXTRA GREEN at Rivington Palace, London UK. Curated and introduced by Nicole Wolf, researcher and lecturer in Visual Culture at Goldsmiths, University of London., in response to the exhibition of Sheela Gowda: Therein & Besides.
2009 – A five day International Workshop on the theme of IMAGINE PEACE! A Visual Encyclopedia, organized by Khoj in collaboration with Design2context, (Institute for Design Research at the Zurich University of the Arts). Khoj Studios Delhi.
2008 – Presentation of two Short Films ( RahiZindagituPhirMilenge and Shopkeeper) in the five day International Workshop ‘Logistics of Perception: Images from Conflict Zones’ organized by MAJLIS ( A CENTER FOR RIGHTS DISCOURSE AND INTER-DISCIPLINARY ARTS INITIATIVE, Mumbai ) at Adi Shakti Pondicherry.
2007- 15 Day Residency of International Artists’ Workshop (KHOJ KASHEER 2007) organized by KHOJ New Delhi at Srinagar Kashmir.
2014 – Solo-Show of Paintings (Image and Text an Interface), sponsored by Jammu & Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages, Srinagar; organized by Department of Students Welfare, University of Kashmir in collaboration with Gayoor Art Foundation, Srinagar & Faculty of Music & Fine Arts, Srinagar at University of Kashmir, Srinagar. (From 20th to 24th July 2014 – 05 Days)
2001 – Solo Show of Paintings at ART HERITAGE, Trevini Kala Sangam, New Delhi, Sponsored by Art Heritage and Curated by AbrahimAlkazi. (From 7th to 26th September 2001 – 20Days)
Award & Recognition
2011 – Felicitated for the significant contribution in the field of Fine Arts in Kashmir by Degree College Bramullah, Srinagar Kashmir.
2013 – A Painting titled “Anecdote”(1998), published in the web journal, ‘Cerebration – Issue I –
2013’. The web journal is sponsored by The Caspersen School of graduate studies, Drew University, New Jersey, USA.
2014- Review by Dr. Muhammad Maroof Shah, Art Literacy in Kashmir: Art Works and Art Criticism of Wasim Mushtaq, Greater Kashmir, Readings, June 19, 2014
2011 – Curatorial Review by Nicole Wolf, Concrete colour: Film screenings responding to Sheela Gowda exhibition, Invia, London, U.K.,
2010 – Included in the E-book: ‘KhojKasheer 2007’ written by Herbert Grammatikopoulos
2001 – Review by Poonam Goel, Reflections from Kashmir, Hindustan Times, New Delhi, 17 March, 2001
2001- Review in the First City, Magazine, New Delhi, March 17, 2001
2001 – Review by Goutam Das, Getting Past the Trauma, The Pioneer, New Delhi, March 14, 2001
2001 – Review by R. S. Yadav, Shows of Excellence at Art Heritage, National Herald, New Delhi, September 22, 2001
*Hegel’s linear theory of history that leads to liberal Western supremacy where a country like India had “no history” at all, has had a monumental influence on the Western thought and its attitude to the non-western world.
** The ‘seven’, here, constitutes a week.
Budding Artist- Qurat Nissar
Hailing from village Qazipora Tangmarg, Qurat Nissar is a student of class 9th of MTM Foundation Chandilora Tangmarg. With her creativity and evolving artistic skill, she is definitely going to make a mark for herself in the art field. Despite the fact that Kashmir lacks in facilitations as well as infrastructure vis-à-vis art, she has been doing wonderfully well.
“Our education system has not been able to create suitable environment for such creative means of communication and self exploration. But I am not going to give up and I have found this amazing place called ‘ALIF-Arts in Life Initiative Foundation” which is working to encourage young artists,” Qurat says adding that she had been participating in various art competitions voluntarily.
Pertinent to mention that all government run schools and most of the private schools in Kashmir are yet to introduce fine arts as a subject even though well qualified jobless art graduates and post graduates who put in lot of efforts to complete their degrees in and outside of Kashmir come back to valley with this hope that someday this reform shall take place and they shall have an opportunity to teach young and aspiring artists.
“There are many students who have a taste for art and want to learn fine arts but because of the lack of facility in schools they are forced to suppress their desire,” Qurat says adding that she was hopeful for a better prospectus in schools for students like her in future.
It is undoubtedly a huge stumbling block for children not to have art teacher or space to explore other means of communication and expression. The society in general and our academic structures in particular need to understand and evolve to encourage children to draw and paint and also try their hands at other creative means and ventures. Juxtapose a few options as ‘the only’ for the whole mass of students, we are only limiting the creative scope and opportunity for our young generations.
Here are some Artworks of Qurat Nissar: