By Rabbia Javaid

A QEEL Solangi’s knowledge and approach towards the art scene in Pakistan confirms that there are still some people attached to their roots, who are truly dedicated to their profession.

Solangi is assistant professor in the Department of Fine Arts at the National College of Arts’ (NCA) Rawalpindi campus. Starting out by joining Mehboob Painters (a sign and cinema board painter for apprenticeship around 1996-97) in Khairpur, Sindh, he joined the Department of Fine arts at the National College of Arts, Lahore, in 2000, for pursuing BFA, which he successfully passed with honours in 2003. He did his MA (Hons) in Visual Arts from the same institution in 2005. He also worked as an art director and as a designer with Afzal Studio and Image Bank in Lahore, where he painted huge-size backdrops for commercial and art photography while also designing photo albums.

In 2006, he was awarded the Young Talent Award by the Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA) and his work has been collected nationally and internationally, including in the USA, UK, Canada and India. Besides this he was the recipient of NCA/VITA-CW Pakistan Trust art bursary in 2006 to spend a term at the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, London.

For Solangi art is not just a means of expression but experience as well. Be it dance, painting or singing, it keeps one’s soul alive and provides a thought for new visions.

It is an essential matter of one’s life, as without art life is dull, colourless, thoughtless, visionless and senseless. Art is the mirror of any society.

Talking about the international platforms and where we stand in the race, Solangi, without hesitation, utters: “We are no where be hind in the chase as we are equally talented and blessed. It all depends on how we use our strengths.” He further adds: “Pakistani artists are practicing internationally; there are many examples of those finding acclaim abroad. Whether it is painting, sculpture, miniature, ceramics or printmaking, Pakistan is in no way behind in art. It is even growing, day by day, in the digital media.” Promoting art education in the Pakistani system can only be done through some positive effort in the field.

“It is better to get hold of already established art schools and art departments within the universities and facilitate them better. The idea of creating more institutions comes after the success of the institutions that are already existent,” he says.

It is always considered that there is a race or a kind of competition going on between NCA Lahore and NCA Rawalpindi. Solangi clears the argument by saying: “NCA Rawalpindi is a newly-established campus and there is no comparison between the two campuses. This campus has its own abilities and strengths, and it is creating a unique significance within the region.” To prove his point, he gives the example of NCA Rawalpindi’s first batch, who graduated with excellent results, which Solangi feels was due to mutual effort.

“The teachers are devoted and there is more potential to be found among the students who even spend nights working on their projects to not only produce fine results but also good repute for their campus. The administration, too, is enthusiastic to promote and uphold the good standards.” Art is considered a hobby of the élite. Quality art material is always expensive but Solangi, having been brought up in a village in the interior of Sindh, learnt to make use of indigenous materials such as making the priming material for the canvas with saresh, a kind of glue, mixed with the pigment then using dyes and earthen colours in place of the prepared ones.

“There is a variety of quality material available in Pakistan now. Still there is room to explore and experiment our indigenous materials as they are rich in every manner,” he says.

It has been noticed that young artists, after graduating, have to strive extremely hard to even get themselves accepted by the artist community. This creates a kind of decline as the hundreds of artists graduating each year find no such system of portraying and encouraging the young blood, making them go back into their cocoons. But Solangi points in the direction of the art councils.

“With contemporary Pakistani art gaining place in the global art scenario, there is still a ray of hope. All that we, the concerned authorities, have to do is to point them in the right direction and provide them platforms. We don’t have to look towards the government for everything.

“An artist must make his or her own place through whatever medium he or she can. The government, too, can help in organising platforms for national and international competition but it is all futile until we take a step forward to meet our goals.” ¦


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