What makes Mansoor Rahi a cut above most of the Pakistani artists is his serious introspection of not only the self but about also his art. He doesn't let ego get in the way of being critical and analytical about his creativity. It is this character trait of Rahi’s that has made him one of the few artists of Pakistan that have evolved in their creativity. Each phase tells a new tale about the artist’s thought, concerns and emotions and each theme is a bar higher in sophistication then the last. Born in West Bengal in 1939 Mansoor’s vigor as an artist is still going strong. In his youth he got admitted in the Government college of arts and crafts in Dhaka. His Painting career started in 1956. His first venture not only in an art college but in the field of prolific creativity. This period was marked by what Mansoor called “Academic Realism” in which all creative elements are imitation of nature as realistically as possible - an exercise in realism.
He adds “ There were three teachers that influenced me the most in my artistic exploration. Mohammad Kibria, Abdul Razaq and Zainul Abedin. They introduced to him the concept that God has given the world very vast natural elements and evolution in every form be it figurative or organic. Rahi maintains “I as in Mansoor Rahi started thinking on the thread that exploration of the figurative form is vital and that change is the only constant in not only nature but imitation of nature and that is in other words art.”
He adds “The second phase of my artistic career was amalgamation of the same ethos and was initiated about 10 years after the analytical realism phase. The idea came to me in 1968. This phase was titled “Analytical Cubism” In this phase figures were fragmented to study all aspects and elements of figure in its original form. The figures seemed to be fragmented and rearranged to give highly aesthetic and cubic form.
In a self critical mode “He adds i felt my paintings in the above mentioned phase were too stiff and appeared crude. Hence in 1977 i decided to break free from this stiffness and my paintings developed an airy, romantic and a very mystic stance. I titled this period as “Organical Mysticism”. Soft hues, illusion and dreamy quality were the main traits of this period.
In 1980 Rahi evolved further explored the cubism and fractionism and titled this phase “Cubo Rayonism”. He adds “My form started to be more non representational. Viewers started to ask that art should also evoke meaning beyond mere representational.” But another strong element of Rayonism was the interplay of light and shade that Rahi introduced to cubism. Rahi broke the principal that there no shades should be introduced in cubism.
In 1990 Rahi’s paintings evolved further and were titled “Neo Precisionism. In this the human body were rendered with a lot of detail and precision. Like a mountain the peak is very small but the bottom is very vast. The body in the neo precision period is very vast from and the head like a mountain peak is very small. He adds “ i have always been fascinated by cracks of rocks in mountains and i have added their linear quality into my paintings.”
Thematically Rahi mentions “ I have various themes running through paintings from global food crisis. A series titled “Black Sun” an empathy with blind people. “The Human Beast” a insight into people looking like pious people but the nature of a beast.”
In 1964 Rahi shifted from Bangladesh to Karachi and he stayed there for 18 years. There he was one of the founders of the Karachi school of Arts with the cooperation of Hajira Mansoor.
Eventually Rahi fell in love with Hajira and they entered a life long matrimony of a couple inspired by love to paint. Hajira with her mystical depiction of beautiful oriental women and Rahi’s realistic concept with jagged line depiction in oil paintings complimented each other and has resulted in a life long harmony not as artists but two individuals that find bliss and solace in each others presence.
On asking Rahi about his perception of the local art scene of Pakistan he maintains “Art is a living language which without grammar cannot survive. The grammatical idiom of Pakistani is weak. There are a lot of painters but their technical side is very weak. Paintings should prove that one has a wide study of nature.”
In comparison to Pakistani art scene Rahi talks about the art scene of Bangladesh “I went to Bangladesh two years ago. There the art scene has improved dramatically. The government has generated funds for promotion of art and culture. In the 80s Pakistan had multiple awards designed for artists. Both Hajira and I have received the President’s pride of performance award but other then that there have been no awards designated for deserving artists. Discussion and talks are being held abroad prolifically but in Pakistan there are very few such forums which focus on discussion of art. “
Upon asking Rahi what inspires him he adds “In the beginning I loved three dimensionality, massiveness and masculinity now I have a strong urge to give something to art before I leave this world. A good artist is a good person. Cleanliness is very important. In short a good painter with bad behavior is very bad. I want to depict humanism and not essentially humans. As an example I will not depict a beggar boy but I would depict poverty. It is more important to depict the mysterious fragrance of a flower rather then the flower itself.”
Mansoor Rahi is a man with a calling in life and the calling is to spread bliss and joy not merely through his art but his presence.