Nature, regardless of its geographical boundaries, acts upon the universal rule; the flowers bloom, the air blows, the birds sing. The poets and artists of every part of this world have been obsessed with the beauty created through and because of these endless actions of nature.
The tradition of painting trees, flowers and birds, has remained a prevalent practice in visual arts, regardless of the diverse aesthetic canons of the East and the West. The miniature paintings approved trees, flowers and birds or animals as decorative elements; spanning from the Persian to the Mughal style. On the other hand, the Western painting cherished nature through landscape painting by the British artists or the still-life frames, adorned with flowers or fruits by painters like Paul Cézanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir or Vincent Van Gogh.
Naela Aamir is a known landscape and cityscape artist having a deep-rooted link with the style and technique of modern realism, commonly associated in Pakistan with Khalid Iqbal. She is a plein-air artist who followed her mentor, Zulqarnain Haider, wholeheartedly, always working on-the-spot and capturing the shades and shadows of the seasons. She loves to paint flowers wherever she can find them; in a pot or vase, creeping over the walls or hanging on the delicate branches of a jacaranda, bougainvillea, or a laburnum tree.
In the current show, titled Baad-i-Nau Bahar, she has arranged all her favourite flowers, at and near the corners and windows of her environs. While Covid-19 lock-downs have restricted us to our homes, Naela Aamir seems to instill all the colours and fragrance in the frames of her still-life with flowers, or trying to capture the sense of loss caused by the pandemic, upon the empty chairs near an open encasement; letting the spring breeze whisper in and across the flower-vases. She herself describes this phenomenon as: “The yellows of sarson [mustard], stretched over vast patches of green, and the wildflowers hanging against and amongst the thorns, advocate life’s beauty and resilience, even in the most challenging circumstances.”
Naela Aamir is a known landscape and cityscape artist having a deep-rooted link with the style and technique of modern realism, commonly associated in Pakistan with Khalid Iqbal. She is a plein-air artist who followed her mentor, Zulqarnain Haider, wholeheartedly by always working on-the-spot and capturing the shades and shadows of the seasons.
Naela Aamir, with her strong on-the-spot observation and style, has been a dynamic practitioner in landscape and cityscape painting since her student years. However, the recent show at the Ocean Gallery Lahore, along with her signature style landscapes, also presented an array of assorted flowers, arranged intentionally in various pots and vases at the selected environs where the artist seems to breathe the fresh air along with these spring flowers.
Titles like The Pink Symphony, My Cup of Tea, Floral Burst and The Morning After, suggest an idiosyncratic yet very demonstrative approach in capturing diverse shades and shadows of these colourful flowers and the surroundings. This aspect of her work adds a subtle narrative is not only visually captivating but also tender in its relationship to emotional restrictions one can empathise with.
The contrast that the artist has put across her canvases, is not only just optic. Presenting colourful flowers attached to the natural plant or tree is one situation whereas, painting the same florae at a floral shop or at the cornered glass or ceramic vase, is another. With the advent of the spring, when the breeze urges flowers to bloom and blossom, the cut-off flowers may present a sense of incarceration.
This may take another twist when Naela Aamir paints empty chairs alongside a large window with flowers abloom across the glass; a very intimate expression. This style of painting evokes visual stimulation to link it with the individual experiences and connotations of seclusion.
Looking at this show is a satisfying experience. However, when one looks at some other frames with landscape or cityscape elements, a feeling of uneasiness emerges. How one wishes that these were still-life frames and nothing beyond that, particularly, in the Covid-19 context where the artist has showcased these lovely and flamboyantly rendered flowers as carriers of hope and resilience.
The writer teaches art history at The University College of Art and Design and writes on art in Pakistan with reference to contemporary trends