A book on the life and artistic contribution of noted abstractionist artist Mansoor Rahi was launched at the National Art Gallery on Thursday. The book sums up the 80 years journey, historical events both personal and political — the Partition, Bengal’s famine, Dhaka’s fall, migration and terrorism in Pakistan — that shaped his art.
Written by his son, Danish Rahi, the book “Rahi — the Cubist Legend of Asia” encompasses the artist’s life, passion and contribution to Pakistani art.
A select gathering comprised artists, art lovers and students of Rahi spoke about the evolution of his art, contribution and personnel anecdotes.
Jamal Shah, director-general of Pakistan National Council of the Arts described Rahi a dervish, a brave and genuine artist who has transcended the artistic boundaries.
Mr Rahi is not only a legendry artist but a great teacher as well, Shah commented, adding he knows how to educate and groom young artists that has created the Generation Rahi who are scattered across Pakistan as well as abroad. It proves his belief in sharing of the learning and his love for the art, Shah said, who himself is an established artist and sculptor.
Rahi has a deep understanding of Cubism which is based on curiosity, and shared his art with others with generosity, the PNCA head said.
He candidly admitted that the PNCA has failed to promote art and encourage budding artists.
“Art and society must grow with open mindedness,” Shah said, adding “unfortunately Pakistani society is hostile towards art and self-appointed decision-makers have suffocated society, creativity and instilled insecurity and fear among the people.”
Dr Arjumand Faisal, a noted artist and curator, shared his association with Rahi spanning 48 years and said that he had been pushing and persuading him to publish a book. It took 10 years to materialise.
He said the book is a marvelous work on Rahi’s journey, and a documentary of art history. He also suggested publishing volume two of the book highlighting Hajra Mansur’s work as well.
Rahi while speaking on the occasion said the book is a well-researched work on his journey starting from 1957. He said that he is excited and satisfied that his son has made him “immortal”.
About transformation of his work, Rahi told Daily Morning Mail that “evolution is life and monotony is the killer of element.”
Danish Rahi, a US-based digital designer by profession spoke about the book and said that while starting the project in 2016, he kept in mind three questions to address while writing the book: who is Mansoor Rahi, and how to collect tangible and authentic data; what is the role of modernist, indigenous cubist mindset in Asia?
He said the photographs of his father taken on different times speak of his consistency. Rahi has given an identity to the cubist art in the country, and made Pakistan known worldwide, he said.
Shireen Ghiba Najeeb, an artist and art critic, as well as the PNCA Visual Arts Director Amna Patudi also spoke on the occasion.
An exhibition of paintings by the artist was also held at gallery 1 of PNCA.
The coffee-table book on the art of cubism was completed by his son in two years after painstaking research on each and every piece of photograph and facts about the artist.
Inspired by the Cubism movement, a revolutionary style of paintings created jointly by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in Paris between 1907 and 1914, Rahi’s works not only are innovative but also open a vision of free expression.
Rahi exhibited extensively in Karachi, Peshawar, Islamabad, and Rawalpindi as well as abroad.