ISLAMABAD: Commercial art galleries and private studios are a bastion for art critique, dialogue and business in the urban capital. Art exhibitions — a frequent affair that connect artists with potential art buyers and collectors — offer networking opportunities and a platform to showcase artwork on a large scale.
However, Munir Ahmed Khan, 35, cannot afford the same luxury. An artist of humble origin, Khan has been painting for a long time and got to hone his creative skills at the Rawalpindi Arts Council a few years ago.
A painted hard-paper sheet dangles loosely from his motorcycle while a diverse collection of paintings of various sizes and colour palettes line the fence of Kohsar Park, next to an outdoor florist’s setup.
“People really understand art over here, especially impressionism,” said Khan, who has been coming to the same spot to exhibit his artworks for about six months. Previously, he would set up his make-shift gallery at Peshawar Mor but had to relocate owing to construction of the Metro Bus Project.
If he were exhibiting the same paintings in a gallery, he added, they would sell for much more. At the moment, the highest he sells a painting for is Rs5,000. Small hand-painted postcard-sized paintings make for interesting miniature art pieces.
Landscape and architecture are the artist’s forte. Depicting historic buildings and monuments of Old Lahore and Rawalpindi, he has also painted congested market squares and crumbling structures in Multan and Murree. One also finds abstract artworks, graffiti-inspired strokes and Warholian pop art elements of style in his contemporary paintings.
Khan owes his expertise in oil paints to the late artist Arjumand Awan and in water colours to Ehsan Ali Qureshi. He has also has also dabbled in pen-and-ink and mixed media.
“My paintings are largely driven by my mood and the place I’m painting in. I also paint on-the-spot. Paintings have a charm of their own, which no photograph can ever replace,” he said.
None of the paintings in his collection are framed. “Portability and space management are an issue over here, so I just roll up the paintings or put them in a bag,” he said, pointing towards a black satchel.
Khan, who is based in Farash Town in the capital’s outskirts, shows up at his modest workplace at the posh market from 11am to 5pm every day except Friday.
“I’ve been asked by Capital Development Authority personnel to vacate this space and have also been warned by the police against exhibiting my work here,” he said, adding that he will write an application to the Margalla police seeking permission to continue exhibiting his artworks in the same spot. “Or else, I will try my luck elsewhere,” he said, with the hint of a sad smile.
To create and sell more paintings is his only resolution for the coming year. “This is my only source of income,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2014.