By Nadeem Zuberi, WEEKLY PULSE MAGAZINE, February 24, 2014
(February 10 marks Sadequain’s 27th death anniversary)
Sadequain was an energetic, innovative and restless artist. His talent and desire lead him to the world of art where he will remain as a shining star forever. His calligraphies, murals, paintings, and drawings still mesmerize art enthusiasts with their dramatic and philosophical approach. His artworks in every genre of art fascinate and awaken a response in the viewers. His paintings entice people to visit the gallery where his artworks are displayed. But all the name and fame and encouragement and attention did not affect his work and personality. In fact his passion and affection for art remain with him till death.
Death snatched away Sadequain on 10 February 1987 – one of the greatest calligraphers of all times who helped transform the art of calligraphy into serious expressionist paintings. By now almost every artist has created some work in this field.
The last fifteen years of his life were spent by him largely in practicing calligraphy. He made paintings of the mellifluous and picturesque chapter 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.
By going through his paintings it is obvious that Sadequain felt deeply the sufferings and trials of man and constantly struggle to use his art for promoting the cause of goodness and righteousness, progress and enlightenment, peace and happiness.
Sadequain’s oil paintings were dark, harsh and crude. The sparing use of colors, mostly light blue or blue-green against dark brown or dark blue, hardly changed the basic linear character of the work. Most of the themes were tragic and therefore, the paintings were aptly dark and dramatic, colorless and somber. Some were downright ghoulish, with profuse use of skeletons and blood.
He was attracted to tragic subjects. He uses allusive forms and symbolic images to convey his message and concerns towards society. Such as darkness and light to represent war and peace, crows and cobwebs around men and women suggesting decay, decline and degeneration, rats and lizards and cockroaches crawling on men and women and even snakes entwining them showing that the people are emotionless and completely insensitive. He adapted cactus as a symbol to depict labor, struggle and persistence against natural elements of resistance and triumph of hard work.
Born in 1930 at Amroha (India), a self-taught artist – Sadequain was one of the most talented artists who emerged on the Pakistan art scene in mid-50s. He migrated to Pakistan after graduating in 1948 from Agra University. He had not attended any art school. His talent led him the way forward and he forged a style of his own. He was an inventor of wholly original abstract designs which he used to decorate his murals. Some of them even suggested things like sun and stars and revolving meteors.
During the 1960s, Sadequain portrayed human condition in numerous drawings series, which were actually commentaries on prevailing social and cultural state titled as Cobweb Series, Crow Series, Christ Series, Hope Series, and Sun Series.
He made many puzzle “modern” pictures portraying ambiguous images of people looking like things and things looking like people. “The Last Supper” is a good example of such work. His unique strokes, style, and color schemes give a distinctive characteristic to his work.
Sadequain introduced the painting of large murals and created some thirty of such artworks, of which five are in India. All of his murals are figurative except five in Pakistan and one in India are calligraphic. Most of his murals adorn the halls of public buildings.
He has the honor of painting the largest mural in Pakistan entitled “The Saga of Labor” at the power house of the Mangla Dam, covering an area of 180 feet by 23 feet. 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.
Sadequain was an artist who lived for art and art was his life. Art was like a lifeline for him and his charismatic creations will always fascinate the world.