Tuesday, June 18, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Living with Art: In conversation with art collector Imran Ahmed Siddiqui

Imran’s has a rich collections of modern and traditional calligraphies, landscape paintings and realistic artworks

Update : 09 Jul 2022, 08:40 PM

Imran Ahmed Siddiqui, High Commission of Pakistan in Dhaka, is a passionate art collector. Recently, an art exhibition from Siddiqui’s private collection was held at his residence in Gulshan. The exhibition featured exquisitely drawn Arabic calligraphies of Pakistani master calligraphers, a number of avant-garde Pakistani painters’ artworks, landscape and miniature paintings, and replicas of sculptures from the Indus Valley civilisation, which are from the period of 3000 to 2000 BC. Targeted at displaying the rich and diverse cultural heritage of Pakistan, the event was part of the diamond jubilee celebrations of Pakistan. 

Imran has always been very interested in new ideas and contemporary culture and art have always been an important part of that. His collections also have various sections, there is a calligraphy, figurative and objective section, a landscape section and scenic as well as panoramic beauty of Pakistan. He is open to new thought, which allows him to be interested in all avenues of creativity.

Imran has a number of commendable collections of Shafiq-uz-Zaman Khan, Abdul Razzaq Razi, Ajab Khan, Zahid Ashraf, Wajid Yaqoot,   Abdul Rasheed, Muhammad Asghar Ali, Asghar Ali,  Mussarrat Arif, Ahmed Ali Bhutta, Afrah Fiaz, Fahim Hamid Ali, Irfan Ahmed Khan, Maqsood Ali Lashari, Rana Riaz Ahmed, Nisar Ahmed, Shabana Nazir, Sumaria Amin among others.  

Imran’s has a rich collections of modern and traditional calligraphies, which lovely writing that quickly influences the sensations of a spectator. Many of his calligraphies are pen and ink on paper, but some of woven into painting and carvings. It has been clearly comprehended that modern calligraphers continue to experiment with new materials and techniques, but they all revolve around love and respect for the written word. Some calligraphers has been drawn with reed pen, which is used by dipping into a variety of coloured inks. Some calligraphers texture together letterforms or separate words using different colours; in some cases, gold or silver leaf is applied.

Artwork by MA Bukhari

Imran has an affluent collection of landscape paintings and realistic artworks. Among the painters, Ajab Khan concentrates on the consistency of colours, smooth textures and mind-boggling features. The artist has developed an individual style particularly in watercolour medium. He prefers the medium firstly and foremostly for its trait of articulateness. The painter feels that the nature is an endless source of splendour and mystery. He finds inspiration in the elaborate detailing of the mystical essence of greenery, light filtering through leaves, flora and fauna, silence of nature and foliage, the play of light and shadow and many others. Each of these elements contains a new story for him and an invitation to embark on a new journey He has used plein water technique. His artworks have also been done through agile brushstrokes. He possesses adequate persistence and potentials necessary for transforming visual insights of the world into a heart-rendering depiction. His colours are often subdued and quiet, which can translate the significance of the themes. 

J. Arif has used horse motifs in his painting as a symbol of vigour and progress. The approach is realistic. The painter has pursued tonal impressionism for some time, before settling into tonal realism. His works narrate a story where we find reflections of ourselves -- our struggles and dilemmas. It’s a story of creation, search and discovery. 

Zahid Ashraf is known for the watercolour technique. His selection of colours is really praiseworthy and he superbly understands the anatomy of local culture. Ploughing land with two cows in a mystifying setting where solitude and tranquility are two vital mechanisms in his work. The theme of his work is in a somber mood and the characteristics are highlighted and lighting is a prominent feature in the work.

Wajid Yaqoot is a landscape painter who portrays a bunch of trees in amidst pond. An unpopulated landscape, the sky looks gloomy for its pale hues. The artist has a super ability to blend silence and peace. The artist has over the years gained popularity for his individual depiction of scenic and rural setting of Punjab landscapes, painted with plein aire technique. Yaqoot also paints decorative landscapes in both muted and luminous colours in large sizes canvases. He has used sweeping strokes and sometimes very polished strokes when he used to symbolically portray birds, clouds and seasons. His strokes are simultaneously natural and capable of creating a language which is familiar to us. His colour is both bright and mellow and appears rich and smooth. His soul is always on the lookout for space where the green, azure, red, crimson, off-white and yellow were filled with great joy and ecstasy. Many of his paintings are nature and greenery based and space division in his compositions is dramatic; with big spaces kept flat while smaller areas have several tiny forms. It is obvious that the artist has spent a considerable time to create the illusion of space. 

Artwork by W Yaqoot

The high-commissioner Imran Hossain Siddiqui had the following to say about the collections.

What makes your collection special? Is there any particular type of art that has consistently attracted you, or anything that bonds all the works you have obtained?

This collection takes you on a journey that covers centuries. It has replicas of the artefacts which tell the story of the beginning of human civilization in South Asia. It was in 7000 BC that the South Asian for the first time domesticated flora and fauna in Mehrgarh, Baluchistan, started organized religions and habitats. Their endeavours were at the foundation of the Indus Valley civilization. Gandhara with a touch of classical Greek art is a third important ancient landmark in our history.

Islam arrived in Pakistan in the 8th century and became a permanent settler of the region in the later years. The Islamic cultural influence is the latest chapter in our story. This collection contains beautiful pieces of Arabic calligraphy, art of illumination and miniatures paintings by Pakistani artists. As such, it offers a study in continuity of ancient tradition through blending of the ancient with the modern.

Our diverse society is a receptacle of intellectual amalgamation. The multiplicity of faiths that germinated its fertile grounds, the vast array of monasteries, mosques, temples and monuments dotting the land and the great number of social and cultural movements that flourished here constitute an integrated story which needs to be told in beautiful artistic expressions.

The desire to tell this story is the source of inspiration behind this collection.

What made you want to start collecting art? How long have you been collecting?

My wife and I have been collecting these pieces for over 10 years. Our interest in art and traditional crafts is the reason we started collecting pieces and then curating exhibitions too.

What is the main source of inspiration when you collect art? How would you define the art that you have collected?

My desire to narrate the story of a unique yet diverse cultural tradition is the main source of inspiration. This story is live and continuing. It is not merely the heritage of Pakistan but also several Muslim countries including Bangladesh. In art and crafts, we share a common cultural heritage. There is a huge scope of collaboration to further enrich it.

I hope we would be able to connect artists in order to study contemporary art movements in our respective countries and explore new areas where our common ancient heritage can be blended with the contemporary art.

Are you more concerned in emerging or renowned artists? Which significant artists and art work are in your collection?

Art and artists need support and encouragement at the official level through stipends, courses and exhibitions. In my career, I have always advocated this for the artists everywhere in the world. A great art piece comes out of deep observations and knowledge as well as free exchange of ideas which we must facilitate. I have art pieces from renowned artists such as Mr. Shafiqur-uz-Zaman Khan, the Chief Calligrapher of the Prophet (PBUH)’s Mosque, Madinah Munawwarra, miniature paintings including by Sumera Ameen, Kausar and Shabana as well as replicas of great Gandhara pieces such as Fasting Siddharth, replica of the most ancient image of a Yogi as well as themes from Buddha’s life.

Whose work do you acquire the most?

My focus is to promote new artists and their work. Many among them are producing excellent work. I usually avoid expressing preference for one over the others

What is your focus in art collection? What current trends are you following and why?

My focus is on traditional art and crafts. I am always fascinated by the pieces which are produced through a process of fusion. Furniture pieces amalgamating traditions of Hala in Sindh with Chinniot in Punjab, paintings using patterns of Gandhara in expressing modern trends, pieces of fabric with eclectic Kashmiri, Balochi, Cholistani,

Sindhi embroidery and raw material. This is something that I promote.


The writer is an art critic and cultural curator 

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