Most popularly known for his figurative paintings, Iqbal Hussain captures life-like emotions of his subjects. Taking almost two years to complete a single painting, Hussain leaves no room for error. He immortalises his subjects who mainly belong to Lahore’s old walled city– courtesans, dancers and musicians. “I belong to that area myself and that’s where my roots are; therefore it is my job to preserve the culture of my heritage. I am an avid lover of my country and its culture and I feel that the way I can capture my people no outsider can,” commented Hussain.
His collection exhibited at the PNCA not only includes his classic figurines but he has branched out to the avenue of landscapes. His landscapes of Karachi’s sea view are not only refreshing but inspirational. Limiting his colour palette to greys, whites and blues with colour sprinkled to emphasise the people and animals, the artist creates abstract images worth seeing. Working non-stop for a week, the artist has exhibited about seven of these landscapes capturing Karachi’s coastline.
The exceedingly innovative artist is known for being unconventional and is the first artist in Pakistan to shed light on the hidden life of Lahore’s Red Light Area. His most intriguing quadruplet of paintings in this exhibit is The Last Dowry, inspired by Da Vinci’s Last Supper. Depicting the hardships of the common man trying to collect a decent dowry for his daughter’s wedding, the series continues on to highlight the difficulties that the new bride might have to face if her in-laws fail to accept the dowry as sufficient.
Illuminating very mundane and common place ideas, Hussain portrays his figures not as objects of desire but as women who are aware of their surroundings. Their expressions exude the somberness of tragedy they have faced during their lifetimes. The result is a body of realistic work that is compelling, powerful and haunting.
“I don’t believe in creating paintings that are romanticised or larger than life. My work depicts what I see and how I feel. I love my country and I am true to my country and its people.
It is my job to depict situations the way they are. If I was in it for the money I would not spend two years on one painting and would start creating abstract art sitting at home.”
Hussains passion for using live models and creating scenes that are very imaginable and yet very disturbing sets Iqbal Hussain apart not only in the Pakistan but also within the International art circles.
The Express Tribune