Kaleem Khan

Kaleem Khan
Landscape painting is a favorite subject to paint by artists from Punjab and Khayber Pukhtunkhawa. Quetta born Kaleem Khan is the only artist from Balochistan who has devoted his career to the genre. Unlike the landscape painters from Punjab, his landscapes are not idealized; they have people in it portraying rugged life in the area. His works are a study and documentation of the common rural scene and rural life. In 1983 while preparing for his final at National College of Arts, Lahore, Kaleem Khan recognized his calling; he selected landscapes of Balochistan for his thesis. Since then he has been painting his oeuvre gradually developing his technique unconsciously guided by his thought process. His early landscapes were close to realism, a trend which is followed by his students now and displayed at galleries in Karachi.

Khan’s current displays at artscene gallery, Karachi present a different picture from what we saw on the walls of Canvas in 2002. Refinement of stroke has been replaced with thick rough dabs. The palette has adopted darker shades of red, green, yellow, dark blue which he balances with white and lighter shades of other colours. Although he follows some teachings of the impressionists, his work cannot be called exactly impressionistic because he avoids the fragility of touch and minute careful stripling and dotting which many expressionists practiced. Unlike the impressionists, he does not distort or deform the subject. Through the layers of vigorous spread of paints one can clearly see the camel riders, female shepherds, scarecrows in the fields, horse riders, a traffic constable, houses and interiors and a lot more which has not been shown on canvas. His work is characterized by vigorous slashing strokes, thick smearing of paint, use of high keyed colours and great zest and animation. Khan attributes this change of strokes and palette to the gruesome conditions in Balochistan and northern borders of the country. He relates thick strokes on his canvases to the blows of time which have brought so many changes in everybody’s life adding to the discomforts.

Although only two in number out of his 35 displays, Khan’s portraits of two elderly men are characterized by detail to illustrate the feelings, and strength of temperament of the people. He has successfully captured the personality of the people.

Creativity is related to genes. Various forms of exercises give vent to it and it adopts a shape according to the facilities available. It becomes true when we come across artists from areas suffering from lack of institutions tailoring various forms of art. Had Kaleem Khan been provided an education in music, he would have been a celebrated pianist today. Even today, when he is an established artist in his genre, notes of piano thrill him. When not provided with musical instruments, his creative force found an outlet in drawing and painting. Today he is a well-known landscape painter of Pakistan. His landscapes are away from the usual hangings that one comes across in painting exhibitions. One can feel the pulse of clay and mountains of Baluchistan on his canvases.

As a youngster, Kaleem was fond of music. His neighbour had a piano, which he touched with fondness and whenever got a chance, also played it. They sold it for five hundred rupees and thus Kaleem was deprived of the pleasure of touching it. Then he got attracted to signboard painters and started drawing faces. Nobody in his family approved of it as he was indulging in useless labour. Under his family pressure, somehow he got through inter-science. All the while he was visiting the Arts Council in Quetta where he had the privilege of the company of Pir Mohammad Tareen, the first art graduate of Hernai. At that time local artists in Quetta were copying old Masters and worked on signboards. They did not inspire Kaleem. Tareen’s paintings inspired him conceptually. Before leaving for Italy, Tareen advised Kaleem to join Nation College of Arts, Lahore. Fortunately, a team from NCA visited Quetta to select students for art education. Along with Jamal Shah, and Akram Dost, Kaleem was selected.

At NCA, Khalid Iqbal, his mentor, advised Kaleem to take up landscape painting. Kaleem had not forgotten the scent of his soil. He painted various parts of Quetta so much so that now his paintings have become documents of the area. His painted records prove that concrete has taken over the beauty of the city.

For Kaleem, creativity is an outlet of self-expression. He thinks that tragically, man cannot express himself to the full extent. For him nature is the main source of inspiration. Inspired by nature and using paints and brush as tools, what he brings forth is an amalgamation of his feelings, moods and perceptions.