Bashir Mirza

Bashir Mirza (1941-2000). Born in Amristar in 1941, a Tonga makers son, B.M. manage to climb the ladder to fame. He made it to the Mayo School of Art (NCA). Where he was one of the special favourites of the great Shakir Ali. A product of the swinging sixties, he lived his life on his own terms. His razzle dazzle art career and free spirited persona did much to popularize art, for he propelled it out into the open daring the public to see it and to think.

Education: mayo school of art ( national college of arts)

He never stayed for long with one theme or style, fluctuating between realistic, abstract and non-objective styles. Strong emotion and symbolism typefied his work. In the '65 'War Series' he drew a number of 'Screams' directly onto the canvas pouring out his patriotic fervour well as his inner turmoil and turbulence. Though packing his work with explosive power he also exhibited considerable control over his medium, earning media coverage and stirring public interest. Another highlight of his artistic career was "Portfolio of Pakistan" produced in '67. Basically portraits of people of Pakistan from various provinces, they were sketched in Pen and Ink in a single tone. The structural strength and expressive quality of this work, it seems drew strong inspiration from Sadequain's ink drawings or figurative forms. Since it was not easy to survive on art alone in those days, B.M. looked out for new ventures of earning a living. He opened an art gallery (the first ever in Karachi) at Kutchery Road in '65 but in '69 left town to go abroad. He also published an Art Journal 'Artistic Pakistan' but in '68 sold it off. 'Atelier BM' opened in the '70s. He was by then running an advertising agency cum gallery and bounced back into art again in 1998.

He exhibited his provocative "Lonely girl series" in 1971 and it is reported "even the supposedly more urbane art crowd of Karachi created a 'furore' over them, which prompted the artist to write (the above poem). Dark sensual and tantalizing with huge luminous eyes and pouting lips, these nudes or barely draped creatures moved with a languorous rhythm and feline grace of a cat. Their unmistakable animal magnetism rendered poster like in bold flat colours was titillating to say the least, earning Bashir Mirza just the kind of accolades he craved. Brash, impetuous and restless, this outspoken rebel of an artist was one of the earliest, truly "bohemian" painters we had along with Ahmed Pervaiz and Sadequain. The "shock value" he imparted from is work was very much a part of his own persona.

The 'Lonely Girl' series was shown and gifted to the Seoul Museum when he was invited by the Seoul Olympic Committee. Once again he was in the news. His exhibition DAWN OF DEMOCRACY was inaugrated by Begum Nusrat Bhutto and sporadic highs and lows followed in his chequered career. In '94 BM departed for Australia as Pakistan's cultural attache. By then he was sick, his only late and brief marriage had foundered and the decline had set in. On his return there were subsequent lukewarm exhibitions, the latest being at Chawkandi in Aug '99. The irrepressible B.M. continued to paint, to party, mingle and openings in spite of the slur in his speech and the tremor in his hands and the bottle in his pocket.

He wanted to be rich, famous and powerful and keep open house for his friends. He may not have had power but he did become famous as B.M. and he was loved by a large number of friends and he did also enjoy spells of financial comfort at certain stages of his career.

Alas the sun has set on him who made us feel its fiery power (He painted the black sun repeatedly in his famous 'War Series' '65 and the red sun in his 'Australian Series', '90's) but it was a life well spent for he confessed that "many of my dreams did come true". (quote from the book BASHIR MIRZA: Acrylic Series. '89—'94).

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On 14 August 2006, Pakistan Post issued a Rs. 40 sheetlet to posthumously honour 10 Pakistani Painters.Bashir Mirza was one of them.