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     Volume 5 Issue 106 | August 4, 2006|

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View from the Bottom

Modern Art was never my Cup of Tea

Shahnoor Wahid

I could never understand modern art, no matter how best I tried to act like a connoisseur standing before an abstract painting uttering in low tone...ummm...ah!...hmmmm....! and so on. I always proved to be a bad actor because every time I did that umm and hmmm the painter appeared from nowhere and gave me angry looks. I would look around and find myself standing too close to the painting thereby blocking the view for other visitors at the gallery. Sometimes I made them angry by asking wayward questions about the theme of the abstract painting.

I can't help it. Every painting looks the same to me and I get confused trying to fathom the intrinsic meaning of the splashes of colours, strange brush strokes and weird lines in those paintings. Some of them look downright scary, reminding me of things I see in my sleep. No wonder Pablo Picasso's wife had to say this while commenting on her husband's abstract sketches of women: "If my husband would ever meet a woman on the street who looked like the women in his paintings, he would fall over in a dead faint."

Years back I tried to impress people by writing art reviews in The Morning Sun. I began to attend art exhibitions and read a bit about art and biography of famous artists. The more I read about modern art, impressionism, cubism, dadaism and all that stuff, the more confused I became. But I kept my ignorance to myself. I continued to write art reviews and thankfully no one read it. But it happened one day. Someone read it and I almost lost my job!

Painting by Picasso

What happened was I went to this painting exhibition of renowned artist Md. Jahangir at his Mohammadpur residence. It was in the early nineties. I mingled with the crowd and stood before each and every painting hung on the wall. I put on an expression of a great critique of modern painting. I took notes. I shook my head. I frowned unnecessarily. I smiled. The artist was greatly impressed by my acting. He came forward to shake my skinny hand. He began to ask me questions about modern art. I began to sweat. He asked me more questions. I began to sweat profusely this time. I choked on a half eaten biscuit. I begged leave of him and ran out.

But misfortune never comes alone. Two days later, I bumped on to none other than noted art critique of the country Sadeq Khan at a party. He looked at me. He smiled at me. Then he told me that I totally made a mess of what the paintings of artist Jahangir were all about. He then briefed me on expressionism and impressionism and many other aspects of modern art. The more he talked the more I shrunk. Finally I began to feel like a mouse before a huge cat. I do not mean Sadeq bhai looked like a cat. He is a far too good-looking a man. But one can well imagine my predicament standing before such a personality. From that day on I stopped writing art reviews and tried to follow the advice of great artist Paul Cezanne, " Don't be an art critic, but paint, there lies salvation."

So, I bought canvas and paints and brush and began to paint. Paints and oil and cotton were all over the floor and my bed. Before the month could finish my mother threw me out of the house. That put a quick end to my painting endeavours.

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