A fine stroke: Finding tranquility in art

Naseeruddin Mohmand’s water colours capture the province and its capital in an eternal moment of beauty



PESHAWAR:


It’s a heady experience, looking at the walls inside renowned water colourist Naseeruddin Mohmand’s house. His vast body of work depicts the light and dark of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa past and present. His love for the province’s beauty and culture is glaringly obvious, especially in his treatment of light.


Focusing on highlighting Pukhtun culture, the stunning scenic beauty of the province and its heritage, Mohmand wants the observer to find tranquility through his art. “I want to capture everything for a movement. Our heads are full of noise and the aim here is to find a space that is silent and gives peace to the human mind,” he told The Express Tribune.



Some of the paintings of Naseeruddin Mohmand. PHOTOS: HIDAYAT KHAN/EXPRESS



The rich culture and heritage of the province is fast disappearing with the behaviour of people in current times. Decades of war remains a major threat to the heritage and environment of K-P.

Mohmand was born in 1942 and has had a steady output of work since he picked up the brush. A prolific water colourist, Mohmand has held nine solo exhibitions in the country apart from one in Matsumoto, Japan. “It is always fun to exhibit. Here you can see different styles and see how each one is unique as different artists capture nature in their own way.”

Today, Mohmand remains mostly in his Hayatabad home as he battles health problems. However, those do not stop him from doing what he does best. Mohmand is currently in the process of completing a large-scale water colour painting in the lawn of his house.

Some of his work on display in his colourful residence celebrates the interplay of Pukhtun heritage with architecture – the Pukhtun hujra, the city’s historic structures, gates and intricately crafted wooden doors.

“Most of the city’s heritage has been painted at dusk when the surroundings are serene and even birds come down to frolick on the ground,” said Mohmand. And the glow of the golden hour returns to Peshawar its lost romance.

His landscapes focus on the idyllic. Postcard shots of mountains, animals out on green pastures, crystal rivers and orchards feature more than anything else.



Some of the paintings of Naseeruddin Mohmand. PHOTOS: HIDAYAT KHAN/EXPRESS



Among other subjects, Mohmand has a special love for mountains that have become an integral part of his life. “I am perhaps the only artist with a complete understanding of the anatomy and the various types of mountains,” said the artist with a hint of pride.

In fact his work could easily provide a picturebook tour of the region.  Paintings feature a musician playing the rabab or women fetching water. Another subject touched upon by Mohmand is the recent influx of displaced people, who are portrayed in stunning detail in his works.

His house is not the sole or final resting place for his works.

Some of his more recognised murals, averaging at 15 feet by 5 feet, can be seen at prominent places. There is one at the K-P Governor House showing the Pakistan Movement. The mural at Tarbela Dam Museum depicts the reservoir. Another one of his famous works is the fresco illustrating the Kashmir movement.

Even as Mohmand has dedicated his life to preserving the heritage of K-P, there is little to no state patronage for the artist himself or for the subject depicted in his works. But that does not stop him.

“There is an urgent need to protect nature as well as our heritage. I play my role through art,” said Mohmand.



Till a few years ago, said the artist, the city was a clean one, dotted with scenic beauty. Peshawar and its outskirts would inspire artists to grab their canvases and head out, he recalled. However, such moments are now few and far between.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 17th, 2014.

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