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Honouring Abdul Hayee

At the age of 72, Abdul Hayee was honoured with his first solo exhibition at Art Citi gallery, Karachi on 11th April 2019. One of the few remaining original watercolour masters of Pakistan, Abdul Hayee has spent his fruitful life, dedicated to the Art world and all those related to it. The exhibition displayed a wide variety of his nature paintings with all proceeds going directly to the artist.

 

Abdul Hayee was born in a village between Kanpur and Agra, India in 1948. From a family of five brothers, he was the only one to show an interest to art, which led him to the Karachi School of Art. Here he received a Diploma in Fine Art in 1971. Through out his four decades of service to the field, Hayee has welcomed the opportunity to teach anyone who is interested. He has been often seen on sight, painting and teaching his technique of watercolour.

 

He has travelled to various parts of Pakistan and explores the beauty of nature in his work. Be it, the blues of skies, the vibrancy of flowers or the intensity of the Northern Areas, Hayee expresses emotion, vitality and prosperity in his paintings.

Hayee is a believer in interacting with the landscape that one is interested in painted. He often tells his students ‘to look past the obvious, observe the environment closely and engage with the subject matter.’

 

The artist’s colourful paintings appear as ghostly impressions of the past. Since many are on-sight paintings, the works seem to flow on the paper, much like the live moving scene that may have inspired it. Holistically and at a distance, the painted landscape peers out to the viewer, though on closer inspection, the work may seem like just overlapping strokes. However, it is clear that not one brush stroke is amiss; each hold a purpose is telling Hayee’s beautiful tale.

 

The artist cleverly composes his imagery so as to create a painting that engaging the whole space. He also chooses areas of the painting that should be worked in great detail and those that shouldn’t, so much so, that certain sections are left blank so as to allow the white of the paper to become a part of the painting and aids in defining the work of art.

 

Compared to his scenery paintings, his flower studies appear more abstract. Without defining many qualities of the flower, other than colour, the artist seems to focus on capturing the fluidity and softness of it. These paintings are bright and evoke a sense of joy and calm for viewer. It is also interesting to note that even without a clear distinction between foreground and background in the paintings, as Hayee seems to blend in all the surface planes into one, there is still a visual semblance of the where the flower is placed in each painting, be it in a vase, or growing from a shrub.

 

Along with being a conveyor of nature’s beauty, Hayee also portrays the everyday of the local man, particularly those that care of the gardens, heritage sights, and boats. In several paintings, vague impressions of people can be noted busy going about their daily life; fishing, making boats, tending to the architecture and landscapes and shopping. Through his live painting, he is able to explore the people while walking, working or even in the group and his cleverly placed brushstrokes give us an impression of what exactly is happening.

 

Watercolour has had a long history with Pakistan. Our country is home to some of the most revered masters and it is a delight to see them beginning to re-emerge through local and international watercolour biennales and exhibitions. Contemporary watercolour is on the rise and it is exciting to see how our local water-colourists continue to move forward in the art world.

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