Canvas of hope: Devaluing the currency, expression of art

Pir Hamid Kheshgi says artists are not encouraged, forced to give work for free


Hidayat Khan February 16, 2016
Pir Hamid Kheshgi’s paintings. PHOTOS: EXPRESS

PESHAWAR: Art has the ability to inspire people and preserve cultural diversity. But Pir Hamid Kheshgi, a 34-year-old painter and visual artist from Nowshera, believes the significance of art has been downplayed in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Speaking to The Express Tribune over the telephone, he said artists can bring positivity and creativity in society. Images that appear on an empty canvas through the strokes of a brush or the grain of pastels have historically been a method of highlighting social issues and recording history.

“[Art] makes us good human being, which is need of the times,” the artist said.

According to Kheshgi, this vision can only be achieved if art and artists gain respect from people and the government is willing to support them.

Kheshgi said artwork is rarely appreciated and has no value.

“[We] are forced to either sell work for a few hundred rupees or give it away for free,” he said. “Artists should be encouraged so young people are inspired to become painters.” He added exhibitions should be held to encourage people to understand the importance of art and culture.  The 34-year-old artist said there are few art galleries in K-P and exhibitions are not arranged as frequently as they should. Even if they are arranged, people seldom attend them, he added.

Not just a still-life man

Kheshgi came into the limelight in April 2015 for his 2D animated movie on the famous Pashto tale of Yousaf Khan and Sherbano.

However, his oeuvre includes a combination of oil paintings, pastel and pencil sketches, landscapes and still-life drawings.

For Kheshgi, canvas becomes home to simple illustrations and images that reflect the colours and complexities of society. According to the artist, he has tried to highlight social issues through his oil paintings, which is his medium of choice. However, he has also made several pastel and pencil sketches.

Most of his paintings focus on objects that instil peace rather than disturb the onlooker. Kheshgi draws attention to village landscapes and musical instruments.

The artist has also sketched a portrait of Malik Ahmad Khan Yousafzai, a chieftain of the Yousafzai tribe. Pashto writer and poet Abasin Yousafzai guided him with this task. The portrait has been rendered using pastels and is considered unique as there is no other picture of the leader. The 34-year-old’s portrait of Malik Ahmad Khan Yousafzai has been included in textbooks.

Kheshgi also draws inspiration from poet and artist Abdul Ghani Khan. He gifted 20 paintings to an art gallery set up a few years back at Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan.

A childhood dream

“Painting [for me] is more about having fun,” Kheshgi said. “It was a childhood hobby that I am still pursuing with the same enthusiasm.”

He said when he started painting, his family dissuaded him from pursuing art as it was against their religious beliefs. However, he did not give up on his dream to become an artist.

“I completed an undergraduate degree in fine arts from University of Peshawar,” he said. “I went on to do my masters from National College of Arts, Lahore.”

Kheshgi is currently working as a character designer and is a lecturer at the College of Fashion and Design in Nowshera.

Cultural preservation

“The country does not have one culture; there is diversity here,” he said. “Our cultures are valuable assets for our country and should be promoted.” And despite all odds, he remains optimistic; “We, the artists, can help protect and preserve our culture and art.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2016.

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