“I am duly humbled by the art I have seen (in this competition) and the great effort that has gone into encouraging young artists in building a space for themselves and providing them an opportunity and building a new kind of patronage. Congratulations to all those who are in this exhibition, you may not be among the winner but even to reach here is quite a feat as there is no shoddy painting here” stated Senator Sherry Rehman, who was the Chief Guest at the Prize Distribution Ceremony of Arjumand Painting award 2017 held at PNCA, Islamabad on 11 May. She highly praised the institution of the award and called it “a very great endeavour” by a private gallery and announced two additional Merit Prizes on the spot and received thumping applause from the packed auditorium. Her address surprised many as it revealed the indepth knowledge of art she possess and very well established the reason for inviting her as the Chief Guest. Her art credentials were also accredited by Dr. Arjumand Faisel in his inaugural speech when he said “the reason for inviting you is that you are the only politician who has studied HISTORY OF ARTS as a subject”.
This award, which is the first ever art award by any private gallery in Pakistan at the national level for artists 25 - 40 years of age was instituted in 2015 by Gallery 6 Islamabad. Usama Arjumand, Director of the gallery describing the objective of the Award said “the key purpose of the Award is to emphasize the importance of classical painting among new, emerging and recently established artists. At the same time it has filled a void for the appreciation and recognition of outstanding emerging painters. The Gallery’s conviction is that the Award will generate or maintain interest in the classical art form of painting, as it is dwindling away with the increasing use of computers and other technologies in art”.
Durriya Kazi, one of the judges, who spoke on behalf of all four judges which also included Mansoor Rahi, RM Naeem and Sana Arjumand, mentioned that the quality of paintings is very high, which made the selection from 134 submissions very difficult, hence 5 rounds were held to eliminate some paintings at every stage. She praised that the gallery management made efforts to keep the judgement process very objective, transparent and unbiased and informed that judges were not even allowed to speak to each other till the results were achieved. Which she considered was a very unique approach.
The six recipients of cash award and beautifully designed shield were (1) Irfan Gul Dahri, Soneri Bank First Prize Rs. 200,000, (2) Amna Manzoor, Bestway Cement Second Prize Rs. 150,000, (3) Naqsh Raj, Tapal Tea Third Prize Rs. 100,000, (4) Javed Iqbal Mughal, Adcom Leo Burnett Merit Prize Rs. 50,000, (5) Syed Hussain, Sherry Rehman & Nadeem Hussain Merit Prize Rs. 50,000, and (6) Bushra Khalid, Sherry Rehman & Nadeem Hussain Merit Prize Rs. 50,000.
“Waiting to be picked” painting winning the first prize shows a waiting child in a warrior’s uniform, which could be interpreted in many ways. It could reflect current turbulent situation in minds of parents, while sending their children to school with pending fears of Army Public School like attacks and aligning the child as a warrior. Alternatively, more philosophically, one may see a low income child struggling and fighting a war in the society and hoping the nature will pick him and support him in fighting all odds for his rights.
Amna Manzoor’s painting dealt with her current theme of painting in which she reflects “conditioning of female by family and our society”. She used paints like threads that weave to bring strength but also confines elements as in a cocoon. It indicates both the development process and complexities that strictly limits, confines or defines borders for females in families and society.
“Van Dyke Brown” by Naqsh Raj is a brilliant abstract painting that showed her expertise in dealing with the medium. Her synthesis of the shades and forms created a visual mystery on a large size canvas indicating her command on the composition and completeness of the painting.
Jamal Shah, Director General PNCA, also praised the award and said that he respected the efforts of Gallery 6 for promoting young highly talented artist of Pakistan, hence accepted the request to hold this dynamic event at PNCA, which lends support to promoting art all over Pakistan, a major focus of his overall plan for art development in the country by PNCA. Dr. Arjumand Faisel, Curator and owner of Gallery 6, expressed his happiness about the impact the APA has made on the professional lives of the artists who won the previous awards. He communicated that Gallery 6 will strive hard to make this not only a prestigious art award in Pakistan, but also in the region.
The gala event was very well attended as it brought artists in large numbers from various cities of Pakistan. Besides them, art lovers, diplomats, parliamentarians, bureaucrats and distinguished citizens also attended the event. Gallery 7 and 10 at PNCA, where the exhibition was meticulously displayed were buzzing with visitors in colourful dresses, cheerful exchanges, praises and appreciation for the APA. It was a wonderful feeling to be there among good art and spirited artists and organizers.