Painting prospects: Art in the time of adversity

Paintings by 32-year-old Liaqat Ali. PHOTOS: EXPRESS

Paintings by 32-year-old Liaqat Ali. PHOTOS: EXPRESS

PESHAWAR: Not long ago Swat was touched by violence once again and bled. While many chose other ways to cope, 32-year-old Liaqat Ali, hailing from the Aman Dara village, picked up a brush and painted his anguish onto a canvas. With each stroke of his brush, the young artist tells the story of the turmoil that plagues his land. From cultural norms to displacement and violence, the bright colours in Ali’s paintings come with a strong message attached to them.

Working with oil paints, the self-taught artist found his voice and that of many others on the coarse surface of a canvas. Later, seeing his great spirit and determination Murad Khan and Jamal Shah helped Ali hone his skills and add refinement to his bold expression. From a painting of Buddha meditating in a pool of blood, depicting the violence that gripped the valley where the Gandhara civilisation once thrived, to a painting featuring men in chains, the young artist has taken it upon himself to show the world the problems that he sees around him.

Even in a time of relative peace, Ali believes that much in his part of the world that needs to be highlighted and fixed.

“I have learned that the art can be a powerful way of expression and raising a voice against the social and cultural issues in society,” Ali says while talking about his art. One of his paintings is a visual depiction of one of Ghani Khan’s famous verses. While a few of his paintings depict the centuries-old burqa culture, asking questions that have been suppressed for ages.

“Our people cannot understand art,” Ali said while talking to The Express Tribune “In fact, artists are not spared and art has no space in this area’s belief system. People around me never encourage me, in fact they create problems for artists.” Ali says this is also one of the reasons that the art could never take root in this region.

“We don’t have institutes that could hone young artists’ skills here. Nor do we have any galleries to display our work. Even though all we do is paint what we see around us. The paintings are a depiction of this society,” Ali says with passion.

Talking about his previous work, Ali says he used his art to depict the pain of displacement that people felt as they left Swat in the last few years. “But now I want to bring tourists back to our land, showcase its beauty once again in my landscapes,” Ali says, hopeful about the future.He has showcased his work at 10 exhibitions so far.

Ali admits that it is upon him and other artists from the area to bring life back to the area and preserve its rich cultural heritage on their canvas forever. His paintings, he hopes, will depict a new dawn.

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