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March 16, 2020

AQ Arif accentuates brave nature of defending warriors in Epic Mughals


March 16, 2020

“The genesis of war is as old as history. Human beings have been fighting for power and supremacy from the moment they began to run out of resources and starve, leading to ruthless greed,” writes art critic Saeed Kureshi (Sitara-e-Imtiaz).

The ArtCiti Gallery, which is hosting AQ Arif’s solo art exhibition titled ‘Epic Mughals’ until March 17, quotes Kureshi as saying: “Today history is replete with conflicts, battles and wars that were fought for a variety of reasons, such as forcing ideological change, settling border disputes and capturing mineral resources among others.

“Accentuating the brave nature of defending warriors, AQ Arif has put together a unique set of aesthetically modelled artworks. Additionally, being a highly acknowledged painter of cityscapes and Islamic buildings, the artist in the current exhibit introduces a new wave of captivating structures draped in Muslim architecture.

“The set of paintings depicting the grand era of the Mughals reflects the artist’s vivid vision, eye for detail and a keen urge to define the atmosphere of combat. “The visually complex subject of armed conflicts comprising armour, weapons and dynamic articulation is a daunting theme that Arif confronts head-on. The historical nature of painted episodes is crucial to the preservation of past history of the Subcontinent; some of it grand and some humiliating.

“The artist indeed has manifested his command over this exclusive subject, narrating some of the significant junctures of battle, which now stand preserved. The remarkable demeanour of courage, gracefully composed for movement and posture, these paintings exude inspiration and induce a winning spirit to struggle.

“The artist through his extraordinary arrangements on the canvas has revived the powerful imagery of the region’s ancestors, which oozes with inspiration to fortify the defences of the motherland.

“Retrospectively, ever since the Indus Valley Civilisation (3300-1300 BC), successive kingdoms and empires invaded and ruled the region and enriched its culture: from the Persian Achaemenid Empire to Alexander the Great.

“Muslim rule in the Subcontinent began in 712 AD, when Muhammad bin Qasim conquered Sindh and Multan, setting off several successive invasions leading to the forming of Muslim empires of the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire.

“It was the Mughal rulers who introduced Middle-Eastern art and architecture to India. The emerging Mughal army developed a superior cavalry branch. The cavalry’s horsemen possessed horses and used a wide variety of weapons like swords, shields, lances and, more rarely, guns.

“Their armour was made of steel or leather, and they wore the traditional dress of their tribes. Arif portrays the aforesaid with masterful imagination deploying painterly realism, especially the Mughal cavalry with elephants bearing richly ornamented sturdy armour.

“Among the Mughal military, the artist portrays warships and boats which were used for defending coastlines, controlling piracy and for transportation of men and goods.

“The inclusion of maritime activity amid the subject of warriors strengthens the artist’s archival aspiration, capturing the essence of the 16th century Akbarnama paintings of Mughal court painters that depict battles on the Ganges river.

“Arif underpins the soft aspect of the Mughal lifestyle through artistic representation of royal attire of men and women. Portraits of graceful women dressed in glorious apparel of that era convey an insight into feminine grandeur and beauty.

“Imparting a majestic textural persona to the paintings, the artist handles paints in a variety of application techniques, ranging from scumbling and stippling to bold impasto strokes.

“Culminating into an enhanced and a more gratifying style, Arif has achieved a distinguished disposition among leading painters. The singularity of the artist’s concepts and perception emerging from history emphasises the significance of learning from the past, specifically when the homeland is threatened by conniving adversaries.”

— Pictures courtesy: ArtCiti Gallery