Barkaat, Lahore paintings and on saving things from chaos.


By Amina Rizwan

(This article originally appeared HERE)

I am compelled to login and write the first excerpt of my blog, after a line about a ‘paintbrush’ from ‘The Shape of a Pocket’, by John Berger, an art critic and a noble collaborator of language and images.

“The brush, is for saving things from chaos.”

Just before I picked the book, which is a compulsory grace of my workstation, I was studying Barkaat’s paintings for his upcoming exhibit at Alhamra, Lahore. I write this excerpt, both for those who are fortunate to know him, as well as for those who yet have to encounter him and his work.

‘The Search for Polychrome-2’ | 46×35 inches | Oil on Canvas 2015

I met the family after relocating to Pakistan in 2014,  right  after the completion of my Fulbright grant in USA. Barkaat, as I was told,  miraculously survived a near fatal road accident in 2006, just a month after his 22nd birthday. This accident altered the most necessary faculties and parts of the human body, responsible for growth, development, thinking and speaking. The post-accident period, which left Barkaat in nearly three months of coma, five brain surgeries, paralysis of right side of the body, including severe communication loss, made me realize life is probably about getting up from setbacks. Our faculties, organs, speech, and all things tangible or intangible, were never offered as gentle promises to us, that they will always be ours to keep, to always remain intact as we go through life’s unchartered territories. This realization bends its curve as we need to accept, first and foremostly, that every limitations has their own facets, but definitely has a power to expand, transform, mend and be channeled positively, both for the individuals themselves and most importantly, for those around them.

The struggle to express himself verbally, this struggle, for Barkaat, rendered itself more visible than spoken words, through laying, smearing and brushing with subtle paint strokes. The vibrant colors refract off the paper, at once, realistic, but also like mirage or illusion, while the muted colors have a pending silence which dissolves right into the paper. Barkaat paints things and objects to save them from chaos. He arranges them, in perspective, foreground and background, as affirmation of his own journey: of the faith in his own ability to lay down all he sees and has seen. He collaborates promisingly with his hand and observations, endows them with a responsibility to make them his own. And that too, with his left, non-dominant hand.

‘Barkaat- Self Portrait’ | 17x 23 inches | Oil on canvas | 2015

‘The Stillness at waiting’ | 46×35 inches | Oil on Canvas | 2015

He paints birds to make the field appear while in another painting, evokes the diminishing facades of Lahore, through gradual delays and disappearance of outlines. Some paintings are so meticulously rendered, that they have the potential to render the significance and need to stay true to one’s challenges and setbacks, everyday. The everyday life he paints, through constructs of vehicles, commutes, vendors, buildings, the equine, passersby, kites…these symbolisms denote both the presence and absence of the daily life, its likeness, its noise. The absolute longing to paint this likeness, is the name we assign to surviving and building ourselves anew, through remarkable provisions these symbolisms offer us. His truck art paintings are craftily imbibed with kitsch and polychromatic vintage hues. Barkaat’s first mentor was Dr. Aijaz Anwar, a renowned Pakistani Pride of Perfomance artist, who saw immense potential in Barkaat been able to activate his left hand for the first time, post-accident, to draw lines and gradually compose them over the canvas. Dr. Anwar’s paintings have embedded nostalgia, of Lahore’s beautiful yet diminishing architecture, din and shops in morning light. Barkaat, as I was told and observed, began to use these drawings as inspiration to find his own voice. It strangely connects that in the depths and streaks of Dr. Anwar’s watercolors, Barkaat found the presence, transition and absence of his city, which are now his spoken words.

“What any true painting touches, is an absence- an absence of which, without the painting, we might be unaware. And that would be our loss.”– Berger, John.

Barkaat’s second exhibition in Pakistan, of new and old works, opens on 1st December, 2015, at Alhamra, Lahore. Please join and support us, in this special journey for inclusivity and change through arts.

Amina Rizwan is a Fulbright Alumni and Assistant Professor at Pakistan Institute of Fashion Design, Lahore. She previously taught in BNU for three years. Together with her sister, Khaula Rizwan, who is currently pursuing Masters in Special Ed., also under Fulbright at Boston University, they hope to realize their blueprint: advocating for inclusivity and acceptance of individuals with moderate disabilities and the significantly challenged through education and arts.