‘Perceiving art is not like reading a newspaper that everyone understands. People now have time to read a newspaper word by word; but they rarely have time to look at a work or art and understand it. Art has a very high and superior status and its aim is to develop people’s personalities’, says Rafa’t A’lavi, Director, VM Gallery Karachi
In your opinion, where does painting as an important art stand in the dialogue among civilizations?
If we observe all civilisations, I mean all the roots and myths they all have the same root. Painting as the strongest and most gracious art in the history of art, has always been a means of communication, and all nations have communicated through it as a a visual language. In the dialogue among civilisations, we should look for roots. The artist should know his/her cultural identity and history and be aware of the cultural rituals and heritage so that after getting acquainted with his/her own civilization and cultural heritage will be able to communicate with other nations. Moreover, by choosing the right path, artist must try to create works which are modern and that will answer the needs of the people. Art is the strongest and most effective media for the communication of the nations, especially painting is a language without words and phrases, because it does not need a translator and has a long historical message.
With regard to your idea of painting, how much can it bring the nations together?
Painting is the only strong and effective language that its effect on the spirit and soul of every human being is quite clear. Painting as a technique or as a message to be sent across all around the world is used as a media for direct relation. There are no boundaries for painting and this must be observed in order to gain it most effectively. Actually, for this understanding, every person and society must be educated, minds and perceptions should be trained and then they may use this media as an important device for giving out messages.
How would you evaluate the bridge connecting contemporary art and tradition?
There is a deep connection between tradition and the contemporary world that has been a common spirit on move during all history. Tradition was the manner man used to live and modernism is the way we live now. We cannot separate their relation from our soul and life and should not sacrifice either of them with our illogical prejudices. We should be able to speak with the contemporary language and make a comprehensible for all. For example, if I want to paint a flower on my dress, I should understand its traditional elements and then paint in a modern style. The contemporary artist should know how to use these concepts and elements, expand it and never separate this accomplished relation and this is the dialogue between the present and the past and through this way, we shall reach the dialogue among civilizations. This is an art for relationships, growth and a construction of culture and rich civilization.
What effect does economic and political changes have on art.
If the economic situation was good in a society and people earn well, they could purchase artefacts. But on the whole, people do not have enough income to buy art products. Going deep into the root may raise a lot of discussion. Ehen an artist cannot sell his work, instead of creating his next work, he has to think of other ways to earn his living. There should be more good buyers and agents to provide a good market for the works of art.
Concerning politics, an artist should always be aware of what is going on around him.
What is the role of an artist in the development of the spirit of contemporary man?
Artist should continue creating work that inspires people to think. To draw the viewer’s attention and to form a question in his mind in itself is a way of planting the seed of reflection in people’s mind and the development of thinking results in the advancement of people. First the observer enjoys his work then is busy trying to understand it, this is very important.
Perceiving art is not like reading a newspaper that everyone understands. Thus, the artist tries to provide a situation for people to exercise thinking, so that in the next stage, they would think of developing their spirit. People now always have time to read a newspaper word by word but they rarely have time to look at a work or art and understand it. Art has a very high and superior status and its aim is to develop people’s personalities.
Do you think art should be symbolic to raise questions? Could you explain about your work and painting?
I am the only artist in Pakistan that paints with soil. Everywhere I go, I get some soil and use it in my work. The clean soil from which people are created and to which people return. Soil is beautiful. I don’t use any artificial paints. All my colors are natural, which I make myself. There have been times I have had to grind stones and extract colors from them I have used roots of plants to get colour and mixed them with soil to use in my work.