By Nadeem Zuberi, Weekly Pulse Magazine, September 16, 2013
The creation of any portrait is an artistic representation of a person, where the intent is to depict the visual appearance of the subject. A well-executed portrait is expected to show the inner essence of the person too.
And Zulfikar Aazeen following this rule uses his skills to enhance the visual effect of the portrait thus depicting the near real image of the person. In colour portraits he uses colour shades which support the personality of the person in a portrait. While in grey portraits the variations of the black colour is laudable.
In the current series of paintings at Fine Arts Pakistan Gallery, Karachi Zulfikar tried to pay tribute to the national heroes through his art. The solo exhibition titled “Portraits of Personalities of Pakistan” features national heroes of the country representing various fields of society from politicians to musicians. The collection consists of oil on canvas portraits of Pakistani personalities, most of them are considered as legend in their respective fields.
During the course of long time he has acquired portraiture skills, which is evident from the recent show; he has made portraits with details and harmony with the personality. Whether black and white, sepia or oils most of the portraits are near the real personalities of the person presented. Basically he is a self-taught artist, who works in various disciplines of art but has worked mostly on calligraphy, sculpture and portraiture.
Central to the successful execution of the portrait is a mastery of human anatomy. Human faces are asymmetrical and skilful portrait artists reproduce this with subtle left-right differences. Artists need to be knowledgeable about the underlying bone and tissue structure to make a convincing portrait and Zulfikar follow this rule precisely.
He chooses to paint the bust of personalities that is his portraits depict the subject’s head and shoulders only with varying directions of light and shadow. The posture of the subject is also carefully considered to reveal the emotional and physical state of the person, as is the attire.
The only expression allowable in great portraiture is the expression of character and moral quality, not anything temporary, fleeting, or accidental and Zulfikar considers this point carefully.
In most cases, the portraits are serious closed lip stare, or a slight smile. However, with the mouth relatively neutral, much of the facial expression needs are created through the eyes and eyebrows. As it is a known truth that the eyes say it all and he uses this global truth to portray his portraits inner characters on the canvas. Most of the portraits show expressions of wonder, concentration, pleasure and expectation, in different variations and combinations.
He strives for photographic realism similarity in depicting the person in his portraiture and attempts to reveal character through facial as well as physical features. But he mostly prefers to reveal the character from facial expressions of the personality.
As Charles Dickens put it, “there are only two styles of portrait painting: the serious and the smirk.” Even given these limitations, a full range of subtle emotions is possible from quiet menace to gentle contentment.
The portraits includes historical personalities such as Quaid-e-Azam, Fatima Jinnah, Allama Iqbal, Rashid Minhas, political personalities like Benazir Bhutto, TV and literature personalities Moin Akhtar, Noor Jahan, Saadat Hassan Manto, Ashfaq Ahmed, Umer Shareef, Anwar Maqsood, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Dr Abdus Salam, Ahmed Faraz, Mehdi Hassan, Sadequian, Perveen Shakir and others.