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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

basheer mirza - hasan abdi

Artists mourn BM's death

By Hasan Abidi

KARACHI: Noted painter Bashir Mirza's death is being widely mourned by artists and his vast circle of fans and admirers.

Born in Amritsar, BM, as the artist was lovingly known, migrated to Pakistan in August 1947 and settled in Lahore.

He was introduced to the famous modernist painter and trend-setter, Shakir Ali, who enrolled the young boy at the Mayo School of Art (former National College of Arts) from where Bashir Mirza graduated in 1952. Later he came over to Karachi and held his first exhibition at the Algerian Embassy in 1953.

In 1962 Bashir Mirza founded his Art Gallery inKarachi. In 1971 he left Karachi for Germany. During his stay abroad, he participated in several art exhibitions held in Munich, London and Paris. Back from Europe, he stayed for some time in Islamabad and did some marvellous paintings with Potohar in the background.

Again in 1975, he rejuvenated his Art Gallery and added to it an advertisement firm. The next year, Bashir Mirza launched the Shakir Ali award in the name of his teacher and mentor to encourage the young talents in the field.

During Benazir Bhutto's second stint in office, Bashir Mirza was appointed cultural attache in the Pakistan embassy in Australia. But he could not stay there for long due to poor health and came back.

Bashir Mirza was married but he was not a family man. The nectarous in him could not carry on with a battered marriage for much long. However, his series of paintings, the Lonely Girl, became very popular with the connoisseurs of arts.

Bashir Mirza was highly sensitive, imaginative and owned a sound intellectual background. His big painting on a clipboard of 27x4 feet done for a hotel in Islamabad illustrated symbolically four major problems confronting the people in the 21st century - human rights, the status of women, migration and environment.

CONDOLENCES: Noted artist and an old friend of Bashir Mirza said that BM was obsessed with creative work which had passed through many phases. He said BM's early period drawings were his most powerful work. Later on he painted expressionist paintings, followed by geographic abstracts. His next series was songs and colours.

After returning from Germany, BM painted his famous Lonely Girl series and later on the Flower Girl series. Eventually BM painted human figures which were very spontaneous in a powerful expressionist manner, he said.

Finally when BM was a cultural attache in Australia he painted a series of anti-nuclear paintings which were not allowed to be displayed due to his diplomatic status. Later the paintings were exhibited in Karachi.

Ali Imam said the paintings were BM's major passion in life and it was a pity that this odyssey in art had to come to an abrupt end. During his 35-year span as a painter BM set up the first art gallery in Karachi, later he also published an art monthly "Artistic Pakistan".

Leading artist Mansoor Aye said Bashir was among the leading few artists who had used the medium of acrylic in such a way. He was among the leading painters who had introduced modern trends in their paintings.

He said though Bashir Mirza had studied graphic arts in Lahore and after moving to Karachi over 35 years back also worked full time as graphic artist in a commercial firm, BM and he both used to do painting at Bashir Mirza's place till late in the evenings.

Talking about BM's health, he said he had some liver ailment and had also suffered from appendicitis a few months back.

Rabia Zuberi, who had known Bashir Mirza for over 35 years, taking about the artist said BM had force in his lines, used basic colours and was aware of the environmental problems which he highlighted through his paintings. "Bashir Mirza had depth in his work and he also did series of paintings on music and portraits."

She said BM was neither a coward nor a hypocrite. "Whether good or bad, people knew all about him as he had never hidden anything from the public and had always remained an open person." She said he used to visit her Karachi School of Arts frequently and always encouraged and guided the young artists.


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