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A look back at Sadequain’s aspirations and visions

A look back at Sadequain’s aspirations and visions

Renowned artist Sadequain lived for art which was like a lifeline for him. Not being a very social person, the art maestro lived in the world of his art and also died in it. The name, fame, encouragement and recognition had no effect on his work and personality but instead his passion for the subject stood firm with him till he breathed his last.

The marvel was taken away by the cruel hands of death on February 10, 1987 leaving behind around 15,000 calligraphies, murals, paintings, and drawings for art lovers.

Born in 1930 at Amroha, India, Sadequain was a very socially conscious artist who felt acutely the ills and evils, the tragedies and sufferings of life.

Pulsating with life’s philosophies, his unique work also possesses virtue of exhilaration and romance. His work is not derived from any eastern or western source as he was a self-taught artist and never attended any art school, with his talent leading him forward as he forged a style of his own.

Most of his paintings especially murals depicted the struggle of mankind, his achievements, a persistent quest for knowledge and to discover his endless potential being full of activity, ideas that could be read like an unfolding story about their particular theme.

After living for some time in a wild spot on the shores of Karachi, called Gadani, where the cactus grows wild in the harsh desert conditions, he adopted this thorny plant as a symbol of man struggling and surviving in the most adverse conditions. He symbolized the plant to depict labour, struggle and persistence against natural elements of resistance and triumph of hard work.

He was attracted to tragic subjects using allusive forms and symbolic images to convey his message and concerns towards society, such as darkness and light to represent war and peace.

His style changed completely after he was adjudged Laureate Biennale de Paris in 1961 by an international jury of critics a painting titled “The Last Supper”.

Early in 1965, he expressed his deep sorrow at the decadence and degeneration of life in his country by making a series of drawings and paintings in which humans were shown with nests filled with eggs on their heads.

In early 1966, he put up an exhibition of drawings in which he showed cobwebs growing all around men and women and even on themselves, suggesting decay, decline and degeneration. In the middle of 1966, he made still more drawings in which besides the crows and cobwebs, he showed rats and lizards and cockroaches crawling on men and women and even snakes entwining them, the people in trance and utterly brutalized.

The 1965 war with India led Sadequain to make a more uplifting and inspiring painting. In this mural, he showed the forces of darkness clashing with the forces of light.

Sadequain also paid homage to three legends of classical literature – Ghalib, Iqbal and Faiz by illustrating their poetry on canvas.

The artist completed 25 illustrations of the verses of Ghalib in large oil paintings for the first time ever, in 1968 – coming forty years after the publication in 1928 of Chughtai’s illustrated edition of Ghalib’s verses. With each illustration of the verses, he had appended a small panel on which the relevant verse was written in calligraphy.

Later in February of 1971, he created art based on the verses of the poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz to mark his sixtieth birthday as well as Aftaab-e-Taaza, that illustrated the lines by Allama Iqbal as he showed his reverence towards the national poet.

He has the honour of painting the largest mural in Pakistan entitled “The Saga of Labour” at the power house of the Mangla Dam, covering an area of 180 feet by 23 feet. The theme depicts the human progress representing men using their muscle power to break stones and conquering space and looking down upon the earth through a telescope. After the Mangla mural, in the same year (1967) Sadequain painted four murals at Lahore: two for the Punjab University Auditorium, one for the University Library and one for the Punjab Public Library.

The artist dedicated the last fifteen years of his life to calligraphy, during which he developed an entirely new style making paintings of the mellifluous and picturesque chapters of the Holy Quran – ‘Sura Rahman’. In 1972, he wrote the magnificent “Sura Yaseen” of the Holy Quran on 260 feet long wooden panels and donated it to the Lahore Museum.

In 1960 he was awarded Tamgha-e-Imtiaz (medal). He also received President’s Medal for Pride of Performance in 1962 for his extraordinary work in the field of art while in 1980 he was awarded “Sitara-e-Imtiaz” for his contributions to the art world.

Other than that, he achieved a number of other national and international awards, including “Biennale de Paris” by Government of France in 1961 and “Cultural Award” by Government of Australia in 1975.

Sadequain painted a hefty number of paintings in his lifetime and hardly ever sold his work, mostly giving it away. His work was frequently stolen as well.

The art maestro’s talent and passion for what he does led him to the top of art world where he will remain as a shining star forever long. 

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