Shahid Jalal’s landscapes are both exuberant and rejuvenating. They are therapeutic to behold and although Shahid Jalal claims that his work is not conceptual but purely an inspiration from nature his work carries a potent concept of art produced out of therapy to provide therapy. The painstaking detail with which paint has been applied to the the canvas can only be done if the maker emulates nature and its repetitive patterns with patience and care. Be it a flower bed or a grove of trees. Even aspects of man made architecture blending with foliage. Upon meeting Shahid Jalal one realizes that he exudes a certain calmness which transfers to the swift motion of his hands and the paint brush. Shahid Jalal is certainly no tormented artist seeking solace in creativity in fact it is the contentment in his soul which gives expression to paintings.
The color green is often associated with wisdom and Shahid Jalal often paints green hence painstaking detail and care.
MQ. How did your journey begin?
SJ. I was always a painter since i was 8 or 9 years old. I was told by my teachers that i had a lot of potential. In the later years i had Anna Molka Ahmed and Colin David as my teachers. This gave me exposure to further enhance my skills as an artist. Initially i had studied Chartered Accountancy and adopted this as my profession.I was unhappy being a Chartered Accountant so i decided to pursue painting in my later years. Everybody in my family was against my decision. Reason being that one artist in my family was enough. My father in law and also my uncle Saadat Hassan Manto. i was not only married to his daughter but he was also married to my aunt. I lived in the same house as he and financially we saw some very tough times. Everybody insisted that i should stick to my profession as a chartered accountant.In those days paintings didn't sell for much. Selling around 2 to 3 was a big deal. But now the whole scenario has changed. i took a couple of years off and studied at NCA. The money i earned from CA helped to finance my studies at the college. I changed my profession when i was 30 years old. I did a lot of drawings under Khalid Iqbal. He didn't really teach he just pointed me into a direction. While i was in England i did my accountancy and then got married. Accountancy was a soul selling profession. I joined NCA an d Nazish Ataullah, Jamal Shah and i were the oldies. i left NCA in 1958 and I had my first exhibition in1979. I had a lot of drive while youngsters in college were busy romancing i focused totally on my art.
MQ. What is your perception of the landscapes painted these days?
SJ. Most of the painters paint pictures. They don't get into the landscapes and give their own interpretation. i Consider my mentor, my teacher Khalid Iqbal to be a very good landscape artist.
An individual is only considered a legend and a true artist because of the body of work they have done. In my eyes the legends include Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Allama Iqbal, Edhi, Abdus Salam and Sadat Hasan Manto. Madam Nur Jahan being the top one on the list. Nowadays they call everyone a legend but achievers are those that survive the test of time. Same is with artists very few survive or achieve a true name for themselves in life.While Manto was alive he was starving. No one gave him recognition but now they are making a 25 series film on him with Nandita Das acting in it. Out of the artists i think Sadiquain is a legend. His paintings survived the great oppositions to artists in Zia Ul Haq’s regime.
MQ. What is your take on people’s response to your paintings?
SJ. People have been seeing my work for the past 40 years. I think people like my work. In a recent exhibition i sold 6 paintings for 14 lakh. One painting takes 14 months to paint and it is very therapeutic. Art has taken other forms. There is conceptual art and landscape is looked down upon. This is because of the shortsightedness of the art mafia. Today abroad David Hockney and Jackson Pollock art still painting landscapes. As long as you give a new angle to the painting it doesn't matter what genre of art you are doing. Everything is art and it has no limitations.
MQ. Your view on abstract art.
SJ. i dont believe and am not convinced with the abstract art being done in our country today and i am personally not interested in abstract art.
MQ. Your take of conceptual and abstract art in Pakistan.
SJ. In Karachi especially the artists start with abstraction and do not believe in evolution. They take too many short cuts.I gravitated towards landscape . I believe that you need to specialize and work towards something specific.
MQ. Take on life as an artist.
SJ. If you are happy in your work you are happy with life. I get up in the morning and do yoga and Tai Chi . It calms the sense and that is conveyed in ones painting. Unhappy people want something more from life but i am happy with what i have. You can never convince any one to buy your paintings. The drama the artists are tortured soul is very unrealistic.My teachers Colin David and Khalid Iqbal were wonderful, relaxed individuals who believed only in work. I believe in spirituality . I believed in the sayings of Buddha. Snippets of all religions appeal to me.
MQ. Your take on the general art scene of Pakistan.
SJ. Pakistani art scene is very commercial especially that of Karachi. Dozens of artists will color there paintings to match drawing rooms. Working to a formula making the same painting again and again. Mashkoor Raza is a salient example of a commercial artist. He painted 7-8 paintings in 1 day.
MQ. What inspires you?
SJ. Literature inspires me. Nature inspires me. I read everyday- especially best sellers. i sleep early and perform a ritual water therapy every morning to rejuvenate myself.
i also believe in philantrophy. i have been a constant donor to Citizen foundation. I have donated one crore to them. I sold 28 paintings in 2009 for a silent auction on the net and all my paintings were sold and all the money went to Citizen Foundation.