Fierce spirit

June 20, 2021

Artist Mashkoor Raza incorporates horses in his images for their beauty.

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Horses have been an important subject matter throughout the history of art. Several 15,000 to 17,000-year-old paintings at Lascaux, France, mostly consist of animal representations and reveal horses as their main subject. They are among the finest examples of art from the Paleolithic period. In Egyptian, Grecian and Roman art, horses enjoyed a prominent place. Their anatomy was explored and studied in detail by eminent artists of the time. Later, with the arrival of equine sports, artists were invited to horse races. This became an inspiration for romantic and impressionist artists of the 19th Century. While some artists revealed the excitement and action of the race, others concentrated more on capturing the moments before the start of the event. Later, in modern art, Picasso used the same subject matter, but in contemporary style, leading towards cubism.

The exhibition under review is by Mashkoor Raza. It has been hosted by Ejaz Art gallery, Lahore. Raza’s horses are a part of the artist’s images due to their beauty. For years, he has had the same palette. His rendering of lines and colours speaks of a style all his own. He plays with bold yellows, reds, blues and greens, with an emphasis on many shades of white; drawing attention towards the centre of the painting. As seen in his earlier exhibitions, his canvases depict horses at polo ground; running, chasing, galloping in racing scenes. The daring daubs applied in a cubist style reveal his excitement and fascination with the complexity of gallop and the impressive speed; some of the marked characteristics of equine art.

His canvases depict horses at polo grounds. The daring daubs applied in an abstract style reveal his fascination with the complexity of gallop and the impressive speed; some of the marked characteristics of equine art.

In the current exhibition, there a shift by Raza towards physical representation of horses. He is capturing something insightful about the animal that has gone beyond beautifully groomed stallions. He captures the grace and nobility of spirit and delivers a fascinating visual homage to the animal, as marvellous today as it always was. He sheds light on its unique companionship with humans. There is a shift towards a close-up detail soaked in the essence of its beauty; its joy in being alive. In one of the canvases painted in black and white, the horse takes up almost the entire canvas. Raza uses bold, curved, defined lines leading towards a ‘realistic’ representation of the anatomy of the animal. He marvellously captures the intense gaze of the horses. The animals look strong and muscular, but are tender and emotional creatures on the inside. The painting demonstrates Raza’s sensitivity to the natural world and his understanding of the muscular animal, bearing an innocent soul. He admires the nobility of spirit, virtue and fortitude of this extraordinary animal.

Depiction of nude female forms in semi-abstract and abstract styles is another subject in the canvases. The female body is used as an object to reveal artistic concerns of technique and composition. The palette of red, intese green, yellow and black daring daubs along with black defined lines are used in their visual representation.

The exhibition started on June 10 and will remain on display till June 17.

The writer is an artist and educationist based in Lahore

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