Brief information about the life and work of Shahnawaz Zaidi
Shahnawaz Zaidi is one of the talented and famous artists of Pakistan. He was born on 24 May 1948. His parents emigrated from India, Muzaffarnagar and Uttar Pradesh to Mandibahuddin near Gujarat, Pakistan. Zaidi was the fifth of eleven siblings. He was not allowed to go to school until the fifth grade, but was tutored at home, then sent to a corporate school from where he passed his matriculation. In 1962, his family moved to Lahore where he got admission in Islamia Pre-Medical College. In 1964, he joined the Punjab University and in 1968 completed his Masters in Design. In September 1969, he participated in a graphic design graduate student exhibition at the Punjab University and began teaching there that year.
In 1971, she married her classmate, who was an artist. After completing his master’s degree, Shahnawaz was appointed to the University of the Punjab, where he taught for five years, after which in 1974 he was appointed as a lecturer in Nairobi, Kenya. After a year, he was promoted and became the head of the department. He spent eight years in Kenya but then decided to return to Pakistan in 1982. Here he opened an advertising agency and worked there for two years. From 1984 he was Associate Professor and later Director of the Department of Fine Arts and remained at that institution until his retirement in May 2008, he became Director three times, the first in March 1990 and remained for nine years until 1999 ., then for the second time in the same year from October 1999 to 2002 and then after two years in February 2004 to May 2008. He is now working as a consultant at Comsats Institute, Lahore. He was awarded “Tamgha-e-Imtiaz” in 1998.
Zaidi has been interested in drawing and painting since childhood. His eldest sister Arjumand Shaheen was also interested in art and was a fine arts student at the Lahore Women’s College (University). Zaidi copied her drawings. During his mature period, he was punished to make a drawing on this specimen of mathematics, which was the first “recognition” he received for his art. When he enrolled in graduate school, he was very interested in painting, but at that time Anna Molka Ahmed was the head of the art department at Punjab University, and she refused to admit him to painting, instead offering him admission to design, which he took despite his real interest in painting. There was a design competition in which Zaidi entered and won first prize; soon after, he became interested in design.
In 1984, when Zaidi joined Punjab University as a senior lecturer, he started painting professionally. Before that he painted occasionally. He was greatly inspired by Anna Molka as she was among the first artists of Pakistan to paint in any genre. Zaidi paints fictional characters, but is mostly interested in portraits. His earliest achievements are the portraits of Ibn-e-Sina and many other portraits of historical figures such as Umar Khayyam, Al-Razi, Al-Ghazzali and Quaid-e-Azam. All of them are now on display at Aiwan-e-Iqbal, Lahore on the second and third floors. All of these portraits are in the Flemish style with dark backgrounds and dramatic light that emphasize character. Those parts that are far from the face are painted with less detail. Thick on thin paint is applied with bold, curved and limited brush strokes.
Like the Italian Renaissance artists, Zaidi worked in all fields of art. His different works show different moods and influences. When he paints female figures, he seems to be inspired by the French Impressionists. He also paints cultural scenes that can be called group portraits. Zaidi has worked in many mediums such as watercolours, pastels and oil. He also paints watercolors and Chinese technique and objects with a brush. Zaidi participated in thirty-five national and regional exhibitions in Pakistan and abroad and one solo exhibition in 1996/97 of portraits at Al-Hamra. He has commissioned portraits, one of which is of Dr. Junaid, Vice-Chancellor of the Comsats Institute, where Zaidi is now an advisor.
As Zaidi was inspired by Anna Molka Ahmed, his work is somehow related to her in terms of subject matter and technique. Both artists loved to paint social subjects. Anna Molka uses the mass knife as her medium and Zaidi also uses this medium not in general but uses it in some parts of her paintings and has also done some portraits entirely with a palette knife. He was more inspired by Anna Molka, because in those times when art was just beginning to flourish, she was the only lady who worked in any genre, with such a bold medium and in bright colors.
In addition to painting, Zaidi was very interested in poetry. He translated the Nobel Prize-winning poems of Abinranath Tagore. He wrote several books of poetry eg “Aiana Dar” and “Gita bijli”. Aiana Dar presents a variety of themes in which the colors of nature, the truth of human relationships and the reality of the modern world seem to blend in different forms. Thus, not only his paintings but also his poetry revolves around the social problems in our daily life.
According to Zaidi, “He is primarily an artist and art teaching is his profession. Music and poetry are his passions.”
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